The T20 leg of India’s tour of West Indies may have ended with the visitors losing the series, but they also return with some promise – the growing talent of Tilak Varma.
On debut, the 20-year-old scored 173 runs across five matches. He was unbeaten twice, and finished with an average of close to 60 with a solid strike rate of 141 that accounted for his scores of 39, 51, 49*, 7* and 27.
For the Indian team that has decided to enter a period of transition, with stalwarts Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in, arguably, the last phase of their careers, Varma’s promise bodes well.
In the last two years in the Indian Premier League, he has consistently helped his team, Mumbai Indians, with outstanding performances, scoring more than 300 runs in both seasons. The left-hander’s solid IPL performances made him a regular feature in the franchise’s starting XI, and he used that opportunity to prove he was worthy of a first call-up to the national team, for the West Indies tour.
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Now, India’s perennial middle order issues in white-ball cricket are well-established. For instance, the No 4 batting position in the One-Day International lineup is still up for grabs two months before the all-important ICC Men’s ODI World Cup. Despite playing in a different format, there are calls for Varma to be fast-tracked into the ODI set-up.
It is uncertain whether the selectors will heed these call when considering the squad for the upcoming Asia Cup. If KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are not fully fit by then, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched an option.
Simply put, Varma’s inclusion in the white-ball set-up offers the option of a big-hitting batter who can bowl a bit. Moreover, he fills the void left by Rishabh Pant of a missing left-hander in India’s top five batting spots. He possesses the match-awareness, the ability to switch gears and the maturity to tackle the demands of a middle-order batter.
Rohit Sharma, who has seen Varma from up close while playing together in the IPL, also recognises the promise. Speaking about the left-hander in an interview with the International Cricket Council, Sharma said, “He looks very promising. I have seen him for two years now, he has got the hunger, and that is the most important thing. In him I can see, for the age that he is of, he is quite mature. He knows his batting so well. When I speak with him I understand that the boy knows his batting – where he has to hit, what he has to do in that period.”
Along with the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, Varma is another young gun providing reassurance to anybody who may be worried about the future of Indian T20 cricket when the transition is indeed completed.