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T Natarajan: A modern day hero for aspiring Indian cricketers

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Indian cricket team pacer Thangarasu Natarajan made history in the Brisbane Test against Australia on Friday when he became the first Indian cricketer to make his international debut across all three formats on one tour.

The left-arm fast bowler is just the 17th Indian player to don the national jersey across all three formats. 

Natarajan brought on board as a net bowler for the Indian team

Interestingly, Natarajan was picked for the Australian tour as a net bowler for Team India after his impressive performances for the Hyderabad franchise in the Indian T20 League 2020.

The 29-year-old’s yorker to castle Bangalore talisman AB de Villiers in the Eliminator was arguably the ball of the tournament. 

Natarajan’s ability to execute well-directed yorkers at speeds close to 140kmph helped him receive a call to India's T20I squad for the Australia series following mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy’s shoulder injury. 

Later, just hours before the Men in Blue's first ODI against Australia, Natarajan received his maiden call-up to the Indian ODI squad as Navdeep Saini complained of a back spasm, and the Tamil Nadu-born cricketer was roped in as a replacement for the former. 

Making his dream debut across three formats in Australia

Natarajan eventually made his international debut in the third ODI against Australia on December 2 in Canberra. The left-arm pacer had an immediate impact as he claimed two wickets for 70 runs in his 10 overs, helping India win the match by 13 runs.

Subsequently, the 29-year-old was the wrecker-in-chief for Team India in the T20I series as he helped the visitors beat Australia 2-1. Natarajan was the highest wicket-taker in the T20I series as he claimed six wickets in three matches at an average of 13.83.

 

 The dream run continued for Natarajan as he became India’s 300th Test cricketer replacing injured Jasprit Bumrah in the playing XI at the Gabba.

Interestingly, the Tamil Nadu-born recorded the second-best figures by an Indian left-arm seamer on debut. He finished with 3 for 78 against Australia in the series decider at Brisbane after RP Singh's 4 for 89 against Pakistan way back in 2005/06.

Natarajan has received a lot of praise from former India cricketers, including Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman, for his sensational debut for the Indian cricket team in all three formats.

“Natarajan’s story is a stuff dreams are made of. Feel delighted for the young man,” Sehwag tweeted.

However, the story of the rookie left-arm pacer from Chinnappampatti, a village near Salem in Tamil Nadu, is nothing short of a movie on the silver screen.

How T Natarajan overcame poverty and suspect bowling action

Born to a daily wage construction labourer, Natarajan distributed newspapers and milk to help his parents put food on the table. The rising star of Indian cricket was a tennis ball cricketer for much of his early life and first held a real cricket ball at 20.

Natarajan was selected to play for Jolly Rovers, one of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA)’s top teams. The southpaw showcased his abilities with the leather ball, which eventually earned him his Ranji Trophy debut. 

However, just when he was climbing up the cricketing ladder, Natarajan's world turned upside down after being reported for a suspect action and suspended for a year in 2014.

In 2016, the left-arm pacer finally made his comeback in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), where he had first turned heads of the IPL scouts with his uncanny ability to nail the yorkers.

In a game between Dindigul Dragons and Tuticorin Patriots, Natarajan's side - the Dindigul Dragons - tied the game off the last ball of the over to trigger a Super Over. Batting first, his side made 12 and left 13 runs for the Patriots to win off six balls.

Natarajan, at the end of the sixth ball, had conceded just three singles and a double. He had bowled six yorkers that night - the six balls that possibly changed his career.

 

In the 2017 Indian T20 League auction, the left-arm pacer was picked up by the Punjab franchise for three crores before Hyderabad acquired him for a lesser fee in 2018. 

Thangarasu Natarajan’s story is undoubtedly one of the most inspirational ones in the world of sports.

Feature image courtesy: David Kapernick / AFP

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