IPL emerging stars: Sunrisers embrace young Nitish Reddy’s talent - Hindustan Times

IPL emerging stars: Sunrisers embrace young Nitish Reddy’s talent

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May 20, 2024 09:12 AM IST

The 20-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, a rare seam-bowling all-rounder in India, is a batting hit for SRH and awaits T20 refinement with the ball

In his first season of getting regular game time in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Nitish Reddy is a raw talent who is showing serious spark. In the normal scheme of things, you would wait for 20-year-olds to produce performances of a certain level for at least a couple of seasons in domestic cricket and IPL before talking them up.

\Sunrisers Hyderabad player Nitish Kumar Reddy celebrates a half century during the IPL 2024 in Hyderabad. (PTI Photo)
\Sunrisers Hyderabad player Nitish Kumar Reddy celebrates a half century during the IPL 2024 in Hyderabad. (PTI Photo)

Except that Reddy is a seam bowling all-rounder. Very few in India are able to do what Reddy does — bat in the top six and bowl medium-pace — that you have to rejoice at the arrival of such a prospect.

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As part of Sunrisers Hyderabad, who secured a playoffs berth before their final league game win over Punjab Kings on Sunday, Reddy has stepped up particularly with the bat — he has made 276 runs in 10 games (average 46, strike rate 151.64) including two half-centuries. In the process, Reddy has underlined his rise even as Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma have repeatedly grabbed the headlines at the top of the order. He has also chipped in with three scalps across 12.1 overs.

Picked by Sunrisers at a base price of 20 lakh, Reddy went unnoticed in his debut season in 2023, bowling five wicketless overs across two games while not getting to bat. This season too, he wasn’t thrust into the spotlight immediately. He had to wait until Sunrisers’ fourth game for an opportunity, and the youngster from Andhra hasn’t looked back since.

The decisive moment for Reddy came in his second game against Punjab Kings. With the Sunrisers openers, otherwise riding roughshod over opponents, enduring a rare quiet outing, Reddy came in at No.4 in a surprise move that was perhaps aimed at preserving Heinrich Klaasen for the latter overs. What followed was as unexpected as it was remarkable. Reddy led the show with a stroke-filled 64 (37 balls, 4x4, 5x6) that took SRH to 182/9 for a two-run win. By pulling the pacers and reverse-sweeping the spinners for boundaries, Reddy showed the kind of range befitting a young and fearless batter.

Even his captain at state team Andhra, Ricky Bhui, has been taken aback by how convincing Reddy has looked at No.4. Although Reddy played seven games for Andhra in the 2023/24 Ranji Trophy season, it was with the ball that he had made a mark, taking 25 wickets in seven games at a strike rate of 37.6 to end as his team’s highest wicket-taker.

“It was surprising for me also. He had hardly batted at No.4. At Andhra, he used to bowl a lot and got wickets too, so we kept him down the order. But the way he has adapted to pressure situations at SRH, it’s not easy as a 20-year-old. He has really stood up,” said Bhui, who played two games for Delhi Capitals this season.

Bhui was the captain when the all-rounder was given his First-Class debut in the 2019/20 season at the age of 16. “We first saw him in 2019 when he made his debut in the Ranji Trophy. His potential was there from that time. There are hardly fast-bowling all-rounders in India. He had been performing exceptionally in U-16 and U-19. So, we made sure to try him at the senior level. Each year we saw him improve with bat and ball. You can see how he has grown as a player. Over the last couple of seasons, he has really been a big asset for Andhra. I hope he keeps continuing his good form,” Bhui said.

If the knock against PBKS was a glimpse, there was more evidence of Reddy’s value against Rajasthan Royals when he responded to SRH being 35/2 by smashing an unbeaten 76 off 42 balls. His 360-degree scoring range came to the fore; he carted pace as well as spin for sixes either side of the wicket with ease. And when the field called for a reverse paddle to the left of short third man, he did that too.

“He (Nitish) is fantastic,” said SRH skipper Pat Cummins, praising his teammate after the game. “He summed up the conditions really well. He took the first ten balls to get himself in and then basically hit it wherever he wanted. He is amazing, he is great in the field and gives a couple of handy overs as well.”

That last bit is also instructive, for a couple of handy overs is what Reddy offers with the ball at best for now. “In white-ball cricket, he needs to slightly improve on his variations, death bowling and pace if he wants to bowl four overs (in a T20),” Bhui said.

Reddy believes he can develop into a genuine all-rounder, an assessment Bhui concurs with. “He can definitely be an all-rounder equally good with bat and ball. His work ethic is such that he has kept on improving. I am sure he will play for India,” said Bhui.

Chances of playing for India will depend on how Reddy builds on this breakthrough campaign. Imperative in the immediate future is the need to back up his recent performances by having another impressive domestic season for Andhra. “There will be a bigger role for him next season,” Bhui said. “We are very happy the way he is progressing. We will give him the best opportunities so that he can keep excelling.”

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