The rise and rise of Natarajan

NewsBharati    05-Jan-2021   
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Four months ago, no one would have thought that Natarajan's career would have turned out this way. From a net bowler to correcting his suspected bowling action to being on the bench for three years in IPL to dealing with injuries and finally finding a place in the playing XI after being named as a replacement in all the three formats, it was rising from ashes.
 
Recently, RP Singh lauded 'Yorker King' T Natarajan's journey from a net bowler to finding a place in India's Test squad after he was named as Umesh Yadav's replacement for the remainder of the series against Australia. He remarked that he couldn't recall a better inspirational story than that of the pacer from Tamil Nadu. It is indeed an inspirational story because who would have thought that a net bowler like 'Nattu' coming from Chinnappampatti, a small village near Salem in Tamil Nadu would debut in all three formats as a replacement. It was in his destiny to don the Indian jersey of all the three formats and find a place in playing XI.
 
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Having said that, it was not an easy path for the player who comes from a background where it was even hard to purchase books for education or shoes for a player. He rose just like a phoenix from the ashes every time he faced an obstacle.
“It was not even one or two obstacles for Natarajan - A suspect bowling action, an elbow surgery, and three years in the IPL (Indian Premier League) without a single chance in the playing XI.”
 
 
 
But, he has debuted in T20, ODI, and now will be making his Test debut.
 
The Journey-
 
Born among the poorest of families, Natarajan is the eldest of five children. His father worked in a power loom while his mother ran a small fast food shop. Speaking about the cricket, he used to play since he was around 11 years old and was soon spotted by Jayaprakash, whose initials are written on Natarjan's jersey. He was the man who ran the Chinnappampatti Cricket Club and has been his mentor since. “He was the first person to spot the speed at which I was bowling. He also came home to convince my parents to let me pursue cricket. He assured them that he will take care of me,” Natarajan says in a video.
“As a tribute to his mentor, all jerseys that Natarajan has worn so far have JP’s initials on them. He also has a tattoo that says ‘JP’ on his left inner wrist. Natarajan and Jayaprakash also started a cricket academy in his village that provides free coaching to cricket aspirants from that and nearby villages. A few players have been selected to play in TNPL from the academy.”
 
 
He climbed his cricketing ladder slow, yet steady. He got picked to represent Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy circuit and played his first tournament in January 2015. However, unfortunately, he came under the radar for a suspect bowling action. The one-year was really depressing for him. He had to work hard due to bowling action. He became physically and mentally fit again to have a shot at playing professional cricket.
 
TNPL
 
When an aspiring cricketer is asked, what is his dream, almost everyone says that it is dream come true to wear the Indian jersey but for Natarajan's case, it was different. He has said, it was the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) he went after. But no one knew that it was the TNPL that will be a stepping stone to be a part of playing XI. It was during this time that the TNPL came as a blessing for him. He part of the Dindigul Dragons team in the TNPL 2016 and put up an impressive show in the inaugural edition of TNPL. Similarly, he was in the limelight in the 2017 season too.
 
 
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However, it is in the 2018 TNPL edition, Natarajan shot to fame after he defended 14 runs for Lyca Kovai Kings in the eliminator against Karaikudi Kaalais. His team won the match by five runs, thanks to Natarajan’s impressive bowling in the Super Over. His ability to bowl pinpoint yorkers also earned him the moniker ‘Yorker King’.
 
IPL
 
Though he had a great time in the TNPL, he had no luck in the IPL initially. He was picked up by Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) for Rs 3 crore in the IPL 2017 edition, in which no one knew about his whereabouts. He also had to undergo elbow surgery on his left arm, thus missing out on the rest of the year. Eventually, he was picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) for Rs 40 lakh in the 2018-edition of IPL.
 
 
 
Despite the fact that he was on the bench for two years in a row, he honed his skills under the bowling legend Muttiah Muralidaran and seniors like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he had looked up to which proved to be useful in the 2020-edition of IPL.
 
The T20, ODI, and Test Debut
 
On 26 October, BCCI had announced the Team India squad of all the three formats for the India Tour of Australia. In the end, it said that four additional bowlers will travel with the Indian contingent and Natarajan was part of it. It was a blessing in disguise as Natarajan was named as a replacement after Varun Chakravarthy, another emerging player of the IPL 2020, who was ruled out of the T20 series. It was nothing but a proud moment for him as he had never thought of wearing an Indian jersey and be part of playing XI. He put up an impressive show in all the 3 T20I and picked up 6 wickets.
 
 
 
Before T20I, it was the ODI that came was unexpected for him. Ahead of the ODI match, he was added to India's squad as a cover for Navdeep Saini, who was suffering from a back spasm but could not get a chance in playing XI. In the third and final ODI, he made his T20I debut for India against Australia, and guess what he took two wickets and India eventually won the match. And now, he has now been named as a replacement for Umesh Yadav and will be making his debut.
 
Four months ago, no one would have thought that Natarajan's career would have turned out this way. From a net bowler to correcting his suspected bowling action to being on the bench for three years in IPL to dealing with injuries and finally finding a place in the playing XI after being named as a replacement in all the three formats, it was rising from ashes.