When it comes to checking players’ history and preparing dossiers on them, few can match the extent to which the domestic T20 teams are exhaustive. Only rarely do a few relatively unknown or local players who keep a low profile slip through the gaps. And if by chance they are given a start, it tends to result in a few unexpected turnarounds.
In the six days of the league, two unfamiliar names have had standout performances — Hanuma Vihari of the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Jasprit Bumrah of Mumbai Indians. Both took the Royal Challengers Bangalore by surprise but the real reason could be that the Virat Kohli-led team was possibly not fully prepared for them.
Out of the blue
A case in point is Vihari. A Hyderabad Ranji player who made his debut in the 2010-11 season, Vihari has been around for three seasons and has made 743 runs from 15 matches with a highest score of 191. It automatically qualified him to be labeled as one who has plenty of potential but Bangalore still looked like missing a trick or two while bowling to him.
When asked about Vihari, Royal Challengers’ bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad said a few domestic players had already seen him play and hence were familiar with his style of batting. “But after yesterday we now know exactly where we can target him,” said Prasad.
But did they know anything about his bowling? Vihari has bowled just nine overs in domestic Twenty20s, conceded 55 runs and taken six wickets. Sunday onwards however he will be remembered as the boy who dismissed Chris Gayle with his gentle off-break. Did Bangalore expect Vihari to roll his arm over and account for their most important batsman?
Prasad had to literally search for an answer before he rattled off a rather mechanical quote. “We should be ready for that. International players need to be ready for everything. Adaptability is the key,” he said.
The same logic extends to Bumrah’s case. Here’s a bowler who hasn’t played first-class cricket but on Thursday accounted for three important RCB wickets, one of them being Virat.
A teenager like Vihari, Bumrah has played only 10 T20s for Gujarat but more importantly he was also Man of the Match in last month’s Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 meet final that Gujarat won. His match haul? Three wickets for 14 runs from four overs, including a maiden.