Left-arm pacer T. Natarajan has been both fortunate and unfortunate because of injuries.
Injuries to others helped him debut in all three formats on the India tour of Australia in 2020-21. Injuries have hampered his career since. He had sustained a knee injury in Australia and could play only one T20I and ODI versus visiting England in 2021.
Just when it seemed he had completely recovered, the injury got aggravated to the extent that he had to pull out of IPL (Indian Premier League) 2021 and undergo surgery and rehabilitation. Then, he was infected with COVID-19 and had to miss out on the 2021 T20 World Cup.
He had his best IPL in 2022 in terms of wickets taken, bowling average and strike rate, and played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournament for Tamil Nadu (TN), but didn’t make the cut for the 2022 T20 World Cup.
He was then named in Tamil Nadu’s squad the Vijay Hazare Trophy, only to be replaced. The reason was his new injury.
“Had sustained a mild meniscus tear near my old knee injury in the last IPL. I trained at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) and got totally ready for and played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Unfortunately, it caused problem again (close to the Vijay Hazare Trophy) and the coaching staff advised me to rest and get absolutely match-ready. Everytime I’m almost in the radar (for national call-up), I’m plagued by misfortune. Hopefully, god-willing, if again I do well this IPL, maybe I’ll get considered this year.
“For me, the IPL has been the main thing from where I got into the Indian team. So, if I do well in the IPL like last year and stay injury-free, hopefully chances are there for me to be considered,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Chennai phase final of the Junior Super Kings inter-school T20 tournament at the Guru Nanak College ground here on Tuesday.
By his own admission, Natarajan struggled to bowl in-swing early and that skill is now fully-developed, having worked on it since 2019. So, he says he can even bowl with the new ball if entrusted. He refuses to be slotted as the middle-over or the death-over bowler and says he’s a situational bowler.
“I can bowl at any stage; have prepared my mindset like that. The team wants me to bowl in some situation means they believe in me for that situation. I then try and deliver.”
Data says you can surely bet on him to deliver with his yorkers. At least, a piece of statistic from the 2020 IPL does. During the second qualifier between Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Delhi Capitals (DC), it was flashed that he had bowled the most yorkers by a pacer in that edition - 66.
Apart from mastering the incredibly hard skill of bowling the yorker, what’s even more amazing is his supreme self-belief that he can negate the risk that entails bowling yorkers by absolutely nailing them. The yorker to AB de Villiers in the 2020 IPL eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is proof enough that he can nail it in a crunch situation to a well-set clutch player in a high-stakes clash.
“For yorkers, you need extra strength, be extra skillful, and need to practise a lot! It’s extra hard work!”
Asked about his views on the new Impact Player rule, which is set to be introduced in IPL 2023, he said, “Can’t say for sure how it is going to be, how different it will be. Personally, I needn’t go bat, someone else would go instead of me (laughs). It’s definitely going to be so much fun, that’s for sure!”
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