Bengaluru: It was the first round of the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy, and Delhi had travelled to Jaipur to play Rajasthan at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium. On the eve of the game, pacer Nathu Singh was hitting the stumps regularly with his zippy action. When practice got over, the 20-year-old got busy with the coach. After Pankaj Singh was ruled out due to injury on match day, Nathu began his career and impressed with his bowling on a flat Jaipur track.
But unlike his Ranji debut, where the youngster didn’t have to warm the benches, his journey has been full of hardships. Who knew that a young pace enthusiast, who bowled with tennis balls in the parks of Jaipur, would go on to become hot property at the auction of the ninth Indian Premier League. While Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils bid for the youngster from a mere R10 lakh, Mumbai Indians sealed the deal with a whopping R3.2 crore. Nathu was one of the many youngsters who had set their base price at R10 lakh but recent performances in the domestic circuit led the franchises to work hard to get him.
“We raised the pedal late because we knew Nathu would go at a certain price. We didn’t have any apprehensions about him but we went and picked him. Actually, we had budgeted more for him but are happy we got him at this price,” said MI’s Akash Ambani.
As a boy, Nathu won matches for his local tennis ball teams. Later, his accuracy and speed got noticed by local cricketers who advised him to train with a leather ball. “I was in eighth standard and around 12 years when I used to play with the tennis ball. I was good at bowling and a lot of people advised me join ‘leather cricket’. I believe that tennis ball improves bowling because you have to put in a lot of shoulder in order to bowl quick,” Nathu had said earlier.
“My father works in a wire factory in Jaipur, so it was difficult for him to let me play cricket. But he sacrificed a lot and helped me enroll in an academy in Sikar. Whatever I am today is because of my parents who believed in me,” he added.
Since the family could not afford to pay for his travel and stay at Sikar, the district secretary stepped in and took care of Nathu’s requirements. “Our secretary Subhash Joshi motivated me and gave me chances and took care of my stay and food. Thankfully, I performed well in the state games and earned a zonal call. After that, I attended the National Cricket Academy in 2014,” he said.
There was no looking back. This year, after his successful Ranji stint, Nathu was picked for the India ‘A’ squad to play the touring South Africans. It wasn’t a memorable outing but he bounced back in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournaments.
Nathu represented India ‘B’ in Deodhar and impressed with his pace and swing. “Nathu is a bright prospect for the country. He has the speed and control to succeed. He can definitely bowl quicker and can generate good speed. He is a raw talent. Generally it is difficult to perfect a yorker and slower one but Nathu has both and he can prove to be handy in all formats. He now needs to work hard on his fitness. If he develops more strength and power, it could add to his spells,” said S Senthilnathan, chief coach at the MRF Pace Foundation.