Glenn Maxwell is the most difficult batsman to bowl at, says Kings XI Punjab's T Natarajan
During the Indian Premier League player auction earlier this year, a little known Thangarasu Natarajan went from a base price of rupees 10 lakh to an auction price of rupees 3 crores within a matter of minutes. He was lapped up by the Kings XI Punjab who had entered the auctions after a disappointing last season.
Natarajan’s 300-percent increment brought surprise and astonishment to the fans and pundits alike. But IPL scouts who saw him bowl in the Tamil Nadu Premier League felt otherwise.
For Natarajan, or Nattu as he is fondly called, cricket was more divine intervention than a well-designed plan. While many of his current contemporaries were landing plush IPL contracts at the age of 20, he was busy playing tennis ball cricket in the textile hub of Southern India, Salem.
Entering and surviving in the world of professional cricket – with all its economic barriers – is often difficult for people from humble backgrounds like Natarajan. But then good fortune and talent can be a powerful concoction, throwing up some real gems from time to time.
Today, the 25-year-old sits in a dressing room while rubbing shoulders with superstars like Virender Sehwag, Hashim Amla and Glenn Maxwell. His life can become a cornerstone for countless youngsters of India’s non-cricketing centres.
By his own admission, this is a giant dream he is living and loving each day and will want to make the most of, going forward.
In an exclusive interview, Sportskeeda caught up with the youngster, who opened up about the season so far, his lessons from tennis-ball cricket and communicating in an environment where he didn’t know much of the language being spoken.
It must have been an incredible journey to be playing in the biggest T20 league in the world. Your initial thoughts?
I am extremely happy that the IPL happened, wasn’t expecting it at all. When I took up professional cricket, the goal was always to play Ranji Trophy for my state. But then on the way, something as exciting as the Tamil Nadu Premier League happened, giving me a chance to showcase my skills. I am grateful that I got an opportunity to be a part of that.
Right now, it is wonderful to be a part of the Kings XI Punjab setup where I have been taken good care of and supported well. Hopefully, I can deliver results for the franchise and my country in days to come.
In the auctions this year, you went for nearly 30 times your base price. Did this price tag bring a sense of pressure that you had to perform and deliver, no matter what?
Leading into the auction, all I wanted was the exposure of the competition and so just wanted to be picked by any team. But then when I went for the price at which I did, there was tremendous pressure on me because I felt I had to deliver and justify the faith of the management.
But the pressure was limited to the first game only; after I played that match, I got the motivation that I belonged here and all the pressure disappeared.
Was language any barrier or concern while playing this season?
Yes, that was my main worry because I don’t know how to speak in Hindi or Punjabi and my knowledge of English is limited. I was looking forward to having Murali Vijay around to help me communicate but unfortunately, he got injured and ruled out.
The presence of R Sridhar Sir in the support staff really helped me, as not only did he impart skills on the field but also helped me interact with everyone in the team. So once this was taken care of, I felt completely at home in the setup.
Considering that you played a lot of tennis ball cricket growing up, did that help you in developing the skills needed for a T20 bowler?
Naturally it did; my strength of bowling the yorker has come directly from my experiences while playing tennis ball cricket. You have to hit the length right when you want to bowl that delivery properly – the release point and execution, especially of something like the wide yorker, was completely picked up from my earlier days.
Many fear facing T20 specialist bowlers like you, but who do you think is the most difficult batsman to bowl to in the Kings XI Punjab line-up?
Our captain Glenn Maxwell is the most difficult batsman to bowl to. He is a bowler’s nightmare no matter which team he is playing for.
Lastly, your team is going to be playing a do-or-die game tomorrow against the Rising Pune Supergiant; a loss would mean elimination. What is the mood like in the camp and at a personal level?
We let go of playing with any pressure after the Gujarat Lions game, and with the well-fought wins in the previous two games, there is a lot of positivity in the squad. I don’t think there is any pressure currently, we are just looking at repeating whatever we have done right so far.
At a personal level, I am very confident that I will be able to execute whatever is needed of me, and I just can’t wait to get my hands on the ball for tomorrow’s game.