The Indian T20 League mega auction for 2022 had teams locked in fierce bidding wars for several players, including many uncapped youngsters. Among them was Namboori Thakur Tilak Varma, who was signed by the league’s most successful side and five-time champions Mumbai.
He was, in fact, signed by Mumbai on an INR 1.7 crore contract, earning almost 10 times more money than his base price.
For those who know him from close quarters though, his price tag wouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given the hard work he has put into his game and his success across formats of the game on the domestic front.
Tilak, after all, is an explosive middle-order batter who can confidently finish games and chip in with occasional off-spin. Thus, fetching such a handsome bid at the auction wasn’t that much of a surprise, truth be told.
Promising youngster expected to succeed by coach
Tilak Varma in action during an 2020 U-19 World Cup match between India and Bangladesh.
A left-hand batter and right-arm bowler, Tilak was born on November 8, 2002 in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. Passionate about the game from a young age, he started training at the Legala Cricket Academy under his coach Salam Bayash from the age of 10.
Salam, who rates Tilak highly, believes the sky’s the limit for the youngster and continues to wish him success. In an old interview with Sportstar, Salam Bayash said, “Once he (Tilak) scored 460 runs with two centuries and two fifties in the South Zone U14 grade, I was confident about Tilak going to places.”
As his coach had foreseen, Tilak’s First Class debut didn’t take long as the youngster made his Ranji Trophy bow for Hyderabad against Andhra in December 2018.
His T20 debut at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Hyderabad soon followed against Services in the 2019 edition of the tournament. His debut score of 10 did not do justice to the talent, but the wheels were in motion for the makings of a promising youngster.
Later that year in September 2019, he represented Hyderabad in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for the first time. His List A debut was a more successful event, as he scored 65, helping his team post a 121-run win against Saurashtra.
Since then, Tilak’s career graph has only soared higher. He made the cut for the India U19 team that participated in the 2019 Asia Cup and made his presence felt in the tournament by scoring a crucial 110 against Pakistan, which helped pave his team’s way to the coveted trophy.
4. TILAK VARMA— Sarang Bhalerao (@bhaleraosarang) January 18, 2020
-Stylish 17-year-old left-handed batsman
-Represented Hyderabad in all three formats
-Fan of Suresh Raina
-Hit 4 tons & 3 50s in Cooch Behar Trophy (779 runs)
-Hit a ton v Pakistan in U-19 Asia Cup
-Handy off-spinner#U19CWC pic.twitter.com/2vcAzhLkJf
Soon after, he was named in the 2020 U19 World Cup squad. While he played all six games in the tournament, he batted only thrice with scores of 46, 2 and 38.
As a result of playing in such tournaments, Tilak's confidence has grown due to all the exposure and it reflects in his performances in the domestic circuit. In the 2021-22 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Tilak scored 215 in seven matches, and his runs came at an impressive strike rate of 147.26.
Tilak carried forward his form to the 2021-22 Vijay Hazare Trophy, amassing 180 runs in five matches, including a match-winning ton against Delhi besides also taking four wickets in the tournament.
The Indian T20 League had remained his final frontier on the domestic front in his still nascent career, but after the recent mega auction, that seems only a matter of time before being breached.
Perfect conditions in place to make it in Indian T20 League
And what bodes well for him is that he will have the opportunity of beginning his Indian T20 League adventure with Team Mumbai, one of the best teams at developing domestic talents.
Lest we forget the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Ishan Kishan were all propelled into the limelight and national reckoning following their exploits with the five-time champions.
Tilak Varma, of course, always had his eyes on the Indian T20 League. “I have attended selection trials for most franchises. So, the desire has always been there as this is a huge platform to showcase one’s talent,” Tilak told The Hindu.
Going ahead, Tilak’s immediate focus will be to perform well in the ongoing Ranji Trophy. “Again, the short-term goal for me right now is to be the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy and help the team win it,” Tilak expressed as Hyderabad prepare for the league stage of the tournament against Chandigarh, Bengal and Baroda.
Looking forward, though, Tilak seems ready with the best conditions to find success in Indian domestic cricket’s grandest stage and fastest propellor to the senior national team.
However, what remains to be seen is whether he can produce under the blinding lights of the Indian T20 League. While the conditions, platform and environment are in place for him to succeed, we’ll soon find out whether Tilak’s ready for the next big step or still needs time to settle and adapt to one of the most demanding tournaments in the world.
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