The Mumbai Indians talent scouts must be delighted that Punjab’s tyro leg-spin googly bowler Mayank Markande made the cut straight away in the first IPL match of the season and had everybody’s attention riveted on him.
MI has talent scouts who travel during the six-month long domestic season, and one of them spotted the 20-year-old from Bathinda while he was plying his trade in limited over and Twenty20 matches for Punjab.
The rookie was seen in action in this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy fixtures in Alur and he also featured in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament in Delhi and Kolkata.
MI refused to reveal the talent scout who spotted Markande, but the three-time winner has men like Rahul Sanghvi, T.A.Sekhar, Abey Kuruvilla, Kiran More, Robin Singh and John Wright, who look for the unusual. Wright had spotted fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah before he made his IPL debut in 2013.
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) would have found out something off Markande from its off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, but the youngster, who deployed the googly to defeat Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Deepak Chahar, made a first grand impression.
MI bought him at Rs.20 lakh and Markande has already earned his place in the team ahead of Sri Lankan off-spinner Akila Dananjaya. Having firmed up to choose him, MI also did not make a strong bid for another leggie at the auction.
Leg spin is unnatural and a difficult art and the most successful have talked about the importance of being accurate. MI coach Mahela Jayawardene said: “I thought he bowled brilliantly, we backed him when we saw him first at our camp. We knew that he was special... he came for two trial games for us, both him and (Rahul) Chahar. We backed our youngsters. We knew that this is the year we had to do that. The Stadium was packed against CSK and he bowled well, I am pleased for him.’’
Mahela went on: “I think it is the accuracy. He is quite accurate and probably a bit different to a normal leg-spinner as well. The way he delivers the ball, the control (that) he has with his variations, and he is very confident for a guy who has not played much T20 cricket. His attitude is great and we want to back those guys, give them an opportunity and see what happens.’’
MI insiders said even the likes of Rohit Sharma, Hardik Sharma and others in the team found him extremely accurate and cunning in the net sessions. Markande is supposed to have bowled well in the practice game at the Wankhede Stadium, a match that that was out of bounds for the media.
The Punjab boy became the 37th player to bowl leg-spin in the league. The practitioners of unorthodox have taken 719 wickets so far and MI has three of them.
It may just be the beginning, but MI is hopeful of Markande achieving more in competitive cricket.