Young batter Sudharsan seeks fresh learnings in South Africa | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Young batter Sudharsan seeks fresh learnings in South Africa

Dec 05, 2023 07:33 PM IST

The Tamil Nadu left-hander’s consistency in 2023 has led to his first India call-up for the tour’s three-match ODI series.

In 2023, top-order batter B Sai Sudharsan has added an array of achievements to his CV – he cracked a 47-ball 96 for Gujarat Titans in the IPL final, a century for India A against Pakistan A in the Emerging Asia Cup, signed a contract with Surrey in the English County Championship and made noteworthy contributions for Rest of India in both innings of the Irani Cup tie against Saurashtra.

Sai Sudharsan(PTI)
Sai Sudharsan(PTI)

If the year had drawn to a close without any further highlight, Sudharsan would have had no complaints. But there's more coming his way. Last week, Sudharsan, 22, was picked in India’s squad for the ODI leg of the South African tour, capping off a breakthrough phase with his maiden national call-up. The three ODIs will be played in Johannesburg, Gqeberha and Paarl on December 17, 19 and 21.

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“Actually, we are playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy. So, I was focusing on the tournament and not expecting the India call-up. It was a surprise, but I am really happy,” said Sudharsan, who’s currently in Thane with the Tamil Nadu team.

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Having narrowly missed out on selection for the 2020 U-19 World Cup in South Africa, the youngster from Chennai doesn’t have any experience of the conditions he will counter later this month. But his progress since the U-19 World Cup disappointment suggests he’s on the right track. In 11 first-class matches, he has tallied 829 runs at an average of 43.63 with two centuries and three fifties. His domestic 50-over returns are even better – 1269 runs in 24 games at an average touching 60.

“This will be my first time in South Africa. I’ve heard there will be good pace and bounce. I will just get ready for that and hopefully go there and get some volume (of practice). I don’t think there will be too many changes. The only thought I have is to go there and adapt quickly to the conditions. I am excited by the challenge, first to play for the country and then to go for an overseas tour,” Sudharsan said.

“I enjoy playing against pace and bounce. When there is speed, it is thrilling. It’s a joy to bat against that kind of pace because you get a very good feel off the bat.”

Sudharsan has been one of Tamil Nadu’s leading performers since making his one-day debut a couple of seasons ago, but the knock that really catapulted him into the limelight came at this year’s IPL final. It highlighted a couple of facets: his ability to accelerate once he gets his eye in and seize the big stage rather than be overawed by it. Since then, he has also gained the experience of English conditions having played two first-class matches for eventual champions Surrey in the County championship. Sudharsan expects the exposure to hold him in good stead for future challenges.

“I got exposed to new conditions, a new culture, a new way of playing,” he said. “It’s a different culture there. Because of exposure to those conditions, batting is also getting better. Those were uncomfortable conditions. Getting used to that was also an interesting thing. The opportunity I got to go there and adapt (in England) will help me in South Africa.”

There were other gains too. Unlike in India where even domestic cricketers are used to moving around with entourages that look after their needs, Sudharsan was on his own at Surrey.

“As a person also, I’ve grown. From a young age, I’m used to looking after my things. So, it wasn’t very difficult. But there, you are not with the team. Wherever we travel in domestic cricket, we are always with our team. But in England, you won’t be. So, when you are travelling on your own from one place to another, it was a bit new. But it was definitely a good experience to be looking after my own stuff,” he said.

Now that Sudharsan will be part of the Indian set-up, he has an opportunity for further learning from those he looks up to. “Getting into the team itself is a big honour. Once I get into the team, I would love to have conversations around cricket, on how the conditions are in South Africa, adapt soon, and obviously contribute for the team,” he said. “Definitely Virat Kohli has been a hero. There’s KL Rahul too, who will be leading (in ODIs). I would like to have cricketing conversations with him.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vivek Krishnan is a sports journalist who enjoys covering cricket and football among other disciplines. He wanted to be a cricketer himself but has gladly settled for watching and writing on different sports.

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