Should Mayank Yadav play T20 World Cup — former national selectors and fast bowling coach have their say 

Mayank Yadav should prioritise fitness and bowling at top speed. Selection for India will follow naturally. 

Published : Apr 06, 2024 16:14 IST , Chennai - 10 MINS READ

Breathing fire: With repeated bursts touching speeds well over 150 kilometres per hour (kmph), Mayank has seasoned international batters dancing to his rhythm. 
Breathing fire: With repeated bursts touching speeds well over 150 kilometres per hour (kmph), Mayank has seasoned international batters dancing to his rhythm.  | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Breathing fire: With repeated bursts touching speeds well over 150 kilometres per hour (kmph), Mayank has seasoned international batters dancing to his rhythm.  | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

When Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) signed Mayank Yadav in the 2022 IPL auction for his base price of ₹20 lakh, their fans would have been forgiven for asking — “Who?” No one could claim to have much knowledge of the 21-year-old. The Delhi pacer had not been unearthed by a scouting database nor had he been talked up by informed commentators.

In old-school, word-of-mouth fashion, Mayank had been recommended to LSG by the franchise’s assistant coach and talent scout, Vijay Dahiya, who had spotted the bowler in the nets during the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2021. Unpredictability makes for a special kind of viewing in sports. When would he play? What could he offer?

At the time of writing, Mayank’s bowling profile on the official LSG website remains unchanged, still labelled as right-arm medium-fast. Yet the cricketing landscape tells a different tale. With repeated bursts touching speeds well over 150 kilometres per hour (kmph) — including one that clocked 156.7 kmph against Royal Challengers Bengaluru — Mayank has seasoned international batters dancing to his tune.

Such prowess has ignited whispers of his selection for the T20 World Cup, set to be played in the USA and the West Indies in June. T.A. Sekar, a former India quick and fast bowling coach, feels it is best to strike while the iron is hot. “If he performs well in the remaining IPL matches, rattling the best in the business, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be considered for higher honours,” Sekar told Sportstar. “The prime time to unleash such talents is when they are young, fast, and aggressive.”

Former West Indian pacer Ian Bishop has called Mayank ‘the child of the wind’ on X after the latter ran through RCB’s batting line-up with a spell of 4-0-14-3. “Nothing else needs to be seen to add a sixth name to the fast-bowling contracts list,” Bishop wrote on social media, referring to the fast-bowling contracts handed out by the national selection committee headed by Ajit Agarkar. The five bowlers currently on the list are Akash Deep, who made his debut in the fourth Test against England in Ranchi, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Umran Malik, Yash Dayal and V. Kaverappa.

Former national selector Jatin Paranjpe thinks that adding Mayank to the above list would be a prudent first step. “In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if five or six names were added to the list after this IPL to create a pool of bowlers who are managed slightly differently. If Mayank does well consistently, his name should be in it,” Paranjpe said.

The raw pace and the ability to hustle batsmen with the short ball make Mayank a key component of the LSG attack. But to make the step up and be in World Cup contention, he needs to build on his IPL start. He could provide India with the option of a middle and death-over enforcer, countering spin-strong batsmen who have been groomed for that role. He would, in theory, allow India to use Jasprit Bumrah more fluidly throughout the innings. LSG has used Mayank in a similar role, with five of his six wickets so far coming between overs 7 and 16. “Mayank is not giving you the lengths to hit out of the ground. All sixes against him will be behind the wicket only; hitting him through long-on and long-off will be a challenge for any batsman. Even in this IPL, batters who have tried to hit Mayank through mid-wicket or mid-on have gotten out because their timing is awry due to the high pace. Mayank is also able to vary the lengths without changing his speeds, which is commendable,” Sekar pointed out.

Much focus will also be on the kinds of pitches used in the World Cup. It has been a long time since the West Indies has been a fast bowlers’ paradise while the pitches in the USA could be high-scoring. Mayank can bowl extremely fast in the middle overs, even when conditions are not necessarily favourable for seam and swing, complementing Bumrah’s guile. Accuracy is key, of course. RCB captain Faf du Plessis touched upon this aspect after his side bore the brunt of Mayank’s pace. “Especially if there’s a bit of pace behind it, it’s promising,” du Plessis said. “So, it takes batters a few times just to get used to someone’s action, to see how the ball is coming out of the hand. It was impressive to see his pace. But more impressive for me was his ability to control length and bowl with some good discipline. That’s more impressive — pace combined with accuracy.”

Surendra Bhave, another national selector, spoke about the risks of a broken radar, especially for someone who bowls that fast. “Recent trends show that bowlers exceeding 150 kmph often struggle with accuracy. The selectors will observe Mayank closely during this IPL to assess his performance and gauge his fitness level. Given his pace, monitoring his fitness is essential, as there’s a higher risk of injury when bowling at such speeds. However, Mayank appears to be in excellent shape and focused on his game,” Bhave said. “From the limited exposure I’ve had to him, Mayank doesn’t seem to be a bowler who concedes too many runs while bowling very fast. With his pace, precision becomes crucial; otherwise, he can be expensive. It’s natural for bowlers to get hit occasionally in T20 cricket, but Mayank’s ability to trouble top players with his pace is noteworthy, particularly for an Indian pacer. His fielding efforts seem commendable as well,” Bhave added.

But one thing India will want to keep an eye on is Mayank’s performance at the death. During this IPL, LSG has not used him in the final overs yet. His lengths in the first two phases of the games err strongly towards shorter lengths. That hard length, pitching 8–10 metres from the batsman’s stumps, is hard to hit at that speed. That said, if Mayank can also work on an effective slower ball, something that is now an important feature of death bowling, it might help him if he is summoned between overs 17 and 20.

Mayank also brings a third advantage: his height. Standing at 6 feet 1 inch, he releases the ball from a considerable height. When the release point is that high, the line becomes doubly important. Therefore, his key strength as a bowler lies in his ability to control the line effectively, making him well-suited to execute this strategy due to his skill and physique.

Rohit Sharma prefers to have a bowling unit that includes at least one specialist spinner, along with three fast bowlers and at least one all-rounder. Mohammed Siraj and Bumrah are guaranteed to play in the XI. With Mohammed Shami all but ruled out of the T20 World Cup as he recovers from an ankle surgery, the third fast bowler, if India plays a six-man attack, could be a tussle between Mayank and possibly Arshdeep Singh or Mukesh.

That said, these are still early chapters of Mayank’s story. He will no doubt play matches in which he needs to dig deeper to make things happen. “When a young cricketer enters the scene causing excitement, both in terms of potential and performance, and progresses to playing more matches, particularly at the IPL and international levels, the intensity and pressure on their body increase significantly,” Paranjpe said. “Longevity becomes crucial for fast bowlers, making workload management imperative. So, let’s not get carried away and instead give Mayank the space to express himself. From initial impressions, it’s evident that he possesses the qualities to make an impact on the international stage. But discussing Mayank’s participation in the T20 World Cup is premature; it would be more appropriate for him to complete a full season of first-class cricket first.”

Made with Flourish
Made with Flourish

All stats by Rajneesh Gupta

Bhave, however, begs to differ and says Mayank will be one of the top contenders for the T20 World Cup squad if he keeps bowling in the same fashion. “It’s advantageous to give fast bowlers opportunities while they’re still at their peak. In India, there’s a tendency to subject fast bowlers to the grind of first-class cricket, leading some to lose their pace or skills over time.”

Mayank, of course, must be groomed along the way with the right guidance, proper training, and good facilities. While the excitement is palpable and understandable, the selectors will take a cue from the routes charted by another pace sensation, Umran. The Sunrisers Hyderabad bowler burst onto the scene in 2022 with searing pace and was fast-tracked into the Indian team, but has since retreated to the peripheries, having featured in just 10 ODIs and eight T20Is. His inexperience showed, as he missed his lengths often and was guilty of spraying the ball on both sides of the wicket. He also struggled with no-balls.

Umran’s case is not a one-off. Kolkata Knight Riders batter Venkatesh Iyer earned a call-up to the national squad in 2021 after he played a stellar role in the second leg of that year’s IPL to turn Knight Riders’ season around. But after just two ODIs and nine T20Is, Iyer too has been searching for a comeback opportunity.

Another example is KKR mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who made the cut for the 2021 T20 World Cup squad after having impressed since the 2020 IPL where he took big wickets. “The world doesn’t know what Varun Chakravarthy is. If we cannot understand (how to read him) what will the batsman know,” the chairman of selectors, Chetan Sharma, said at the time. However, in IPL 2022, his form plummeted so much that he was benched for three games. He eventually fell out of favour with the national selectors after playing only six T20Is.

For now, Mayank has shown glimpses of talent that promise to make him a force for a long time and a generational cricketer. “His delivery to dismiss RCB’s Cameron Green, who hails from Western Australia where fast bowlers abound, speaks volumes. Mayank consistently clocks speeds of 150-plus, a feat few can match. As a fast-bowling coach, I take pride in India’s potential to produce superior fast bowlers in the years to come,” Sekar said.

Given the way Mayank is bowling, there are already talks of carrying him as a spare pacer for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia later this year. But five-day cricket will put too much load on his body, reckons Sekar. “To succeed there, he needs to work on his technique, especially his feet alignment. His front leg is going slightly outside the back leg; as of now, he is not using the non-bowling arm much. These are the things he could fine-tune,” he said.

Sekar has been following Mayank for the last three years. He saw him perform in the U-23 category in Pondicherry and then again in 2022 during the Mumbai Indians trials. He knew then that Mayank was cut from a different cloth.

But Mayank’s focus for now needs to be on being fit. He walked off after bowling just one over against Gujarat Titans in Lucknow. Before he left the field, Mayank’s pace had dropped below 140 kmph, and he was hit for three boundaries in the fourth over of Gujarat Titans’s unsuccessful chase of LSG’s 163 for 5. Mayank has had a history of injuries, which ruled him out of last IPL and has restricted him to just one first-class match. Needless to say, Mayank needs to be wrapped up in cotton wool while he continues to bowl thunderbolts and tick the boxes he is required to tick on a given day. India selection will take care of itself.

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