Washington Sundar: The next big thing in Indian cricket?
Tamil Nadu have started off their 2017 season with two draws from two games against Andhra and Tripura respectively. In the first game against Andhra, TN started off on the wrong foot and were bundled out for 176 before Andhra took a 133-run lead in their first innings. However, they recovered in the second innings on the back of two half-centuries and a century that enabled them to eke out a draw.
Ahead of the second match against Tripura, TN were dealt a huge blow with batting star Murali Vijay being ruled out of the clash with a neck spasm that meant the void created by his absence was to be filled. Young Washington Sundar was thrust with the responsibility and he made utmost use of it.
The youngster shone with the ball in hand after skipper Abhinav Mukund won the toss and put Tripura into bat. From his 12 overs, Sundar gave away 40 runs and picked two crucial wickets.
However, his real flair was shown when he opened the innings alongside Abhinav Mukund and craftily stroked his way to a majestic 159 (231b, 14x4, 1x6) that took TN to a position of strength although in the end, the game finished in a tame draw.
Impressive all-round performance
Playing alongside names such as Ashwin, Vijay, Mukund and Karthik is one thing, outperforming them is another. Sundar did not perform very well in the opening encounter against Andhra with only 14 and 20 to his name in two innings but more than made up for it with his maiden FC ton against Tripura.
The young off-spinner bowled 12 overs in Tripura's first innings from which he picked up two wickets including the important one of Smit Patel who fell agonisingly short of a well deserved hundred by just one run.
Sundar strode out with skipper Mukund in their first innings and looked positive right from ball one, punishing the bad deliveries and respecting the good ones. Playing the ball on its merit, Sundar mixed his innings with caution and late aggression that aided Mukund to play his shots freely.
In the post-lunch session, Sundar took up the aggressor's role and took a special liking for Tripura skipper Mani Shankar Mura Singh who was thwarted for three boundaries in a single over.
After a well crafted 162-run partnership, Mukund fell and soon, M. Kaushik Gandhi followed him. Baba Indrajith then joined Sundar and the duo played with maturity to add 152 in 216 balls that put Tamil Nadu in the driver's seat.
At stumps on day 2, Sundar was unbeaten on 156 and was in-line for his maiden double century but unfortunately for the left-hander, he fell early on the next day, having added just three runs to his overnight tally of 156.
In the end, the knock was enough to help TN to another draw but the youngster received immense accolades for his gritty knock.
Consistent since the last few years
The TN all-rounder shot into prominence on the back of good performances in the U-19 World Cup held in 2016 and the TNPL where he represented the Albert Tuti Patriots. Sundar was then picked to replace the injured Ashwin in the Pune squad ahead of IPL 2017 and the youngster grabbed a lot of the attention with economical bowling performances, all at the age of 17.
Opening the bowling on some occasions, the offie relied on changes of pace and maintained good line and length to stifle the batsmen. From 11 matches, Sundar picked 8 wickets at a decent average of 23.12 and an excellent economy of 6.16.
He continued his good run in TNPL 2017, emerging as the season's highest run-getter with 459 runs from 9 matches, comprising of one century and 3 half-centuries apart from excellent returns with the ball that saw him pick 15 wickets at an economy of just 6.16.
Shines for Board President's XI, India Red
After a successful TNPL, Sundar was drafted into the Board President line-up that was set to face the Australian XI and he continued his purple patch there as well, finishing with figures of 2/23 of his eight overs including the wickets of Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell.
For the Duleep Trophy, Sundar represented India Red where he dazzled in the finals, putting in an all-round performance to lead India Red to title victory. After scoring an important 88 in the first innings to help India Red take the lead, Sundar came back to pick six wickets in the first innings and four in the next to apply firm brakes on the India Blue innings that helped his side romp home to victory.
With consistent performances at a young age, Washington Sundar is definitely knocking on the right doors. If he does indeed keep performing in the same manner, one could expect his presence in the Indian setup soon enough.