T Natarajan makes India ODI debut in Australia, completes dream journey from Chinnapampatti to Canberra

As legendary cricketers Ian Bishop and Tom Moody point out, T Natarajan’s journey from Chinnapampatti, a sleepy village near Salem in Tamil Nadu to the biggest stage in international cricket is nothing short of inspirational and magical. The 29-year-old made his India debut in the 3rd ODI against Australia at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Wednesday.

T Natarajan earned his cap from India captain Virat Kohli ahead of the 3rd ODI in Australia. The left-arm pacer becomes the 232nd ODI player and only the 5th fast bowler from Tamil Nadu and the first since Lakshmipathi Balaji in 2002. Natarajan is also only the 11th left-arm fast bowler to make India debut in ODI cricket and the first since Khaleel Ahmed in September 2018.

Natarajan was a late addition to India’s ODI squad as he was initially picked as a replacement for injured Varun Chakravarthy in the T20I squad for Australia. Natarajan replaced Mohammed Shami in the playing XI after the senior pacer was rested in the 3rd ODI.

Natarajan caught the attention of the India selectors with some fine performances in the Indian Premier League. The Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer left quite a few in awe with his ability to bowl yorkers at will. Natarajan topped the yorker charts at IPL 2020 and finished with 16 wickets in as many matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Not many can forget the yorker that he bowled to castle AB de Villiers in the IPL 2020 play-offs.

Who is T Natarajan, India’s latest ODI debutant

Natarajan’s father was a daily-wage labourer in a saree-manufacturing unit while his mother sold snacks at a roadside shop as the cricketer, eldest of five siblings, worked towards his dream of playing competitive cricket.

Natarajan said his family had struggled to make ends meet and they did not even have the money to buy notebooks and pencils for his schooling at a government school.

Till the age of 20, Natarajan played only tennis ball cricket. Natarajan revealed he got an opportunity to play TNCA 4th division cricket in Chennai in 2011 after he met his mentor and ‘godfather’ Jayaprakash. Natarajan’s shirt name in IPL 2020 was ‘JP Nattu’ which was a tribute to the man who spotted him and supported him during the early days of his professional cricket.

Natarajan made his first-class debut in 2015 but things didn’t go according to plan as the Tamil Nadu paceman was reported for suspect action. Natarajan was disheartened but he did not give up as he worked with veterans from his state and came back with a remodeled action.

Success followed him soon as he made an impact in the inaugural edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League in 2016. He caught the attention of IPL scouts with his ability to bowl yorkers at will.

‘Natarajan was my hero of IPL’

In 2017, T Natarajan was bought by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3 crore but the left-arm pacer played only 6 games, picking up only 2 wickets. However, Sunrisers Hyderabad bought him for Rs 40 lakh ahead of IPL 2018 but the pacer warmed the benches in the first 2 seasons. A good performance in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in which he picked up 13 wickets in 11 matches helped him make an IPL return.

Natarajan began his IPL 2020 campaign with the big wicket of Virat Kohli and didn’t look back as he proved to be one of the most impressive fast bowlers in the tournament in the UAE.

Natarajan earned high praise from World Cup-winning former captain Kapil Dev. “Natarajan was my hero of the IPL,” the legendary all-rounder had said.

Natarajan, along with his mentor, has also started a cricket academy near his village in Tamil Nadu to help the deserved ones achieve their dreams. A few cricketers from his academy have already started making a mark at the competitive level.

Having made his ODI debut, Natarajan will be keen on making a solid impact. With 3 more T20I to go, the 29-year-old pacer has some big opportunities to make a mark at the highest level.

As Moody said, “Dreams do come true”.

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