“Take a look at this new pace bowler,” said Chandrakant Pandit on a cold, December morning at Krishnagiri, Wayanad, a couple of years ago.
The former India wicketkeeper was the director of cricket with the Kerala Cricket Association at the time. He was talking about a few exciting new talents he had started working with.
The genial Pandit took you along to the nets at the picturesque Wayanad Cricket Stadium, and asked to watch a curly-haired, strong youngster, who hadn’t made his First Class debut yet. What struck you first was his pace.
The world came to know of Thampi’s pace when the South Zone Twenty20 tournament was televised live from Chennai earlier this year.
The Indian team management, too, had taken note and he was asked to report at Pune for the nets of the Indian Test team against the Australians in late February.
Even as he was bowling at India’s Test batsmen, the auction for the 10th edition of the IPL was on in Bengaluru. Gujarat Lions bought him for ₹85 lakh.
That would prove to be one of the smartest buys for any team at this year’s auction.
The 23-year-old has emerged as one of the most impressive bowlers at this IPL with his ability to clock speeds around 140 kmph consistently, his yorkers and his temperament. In his maiden season at the world cricket’s most glamorous domestic competition, he has dismissed some of the biggest names in cricket such as Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and M.S. Dhoni.
“This past one month has been incredible for me. I could not have even imagined that I would be getting an opportunity to bowl at these great batsmen,” Thampi told Sportstar from Mohali on Sunday. “I still find it difficult to believe that I am actually playing in the IPL.”
He had begun playing cricket with modest ambitions: he just wanted to get picked by Kerala for an age-group match. That, he reckoned, would allow him to demand higher fees for playing in tennis-ball tournaments.
“I am lucky that I belong to the IPL generation of Indian cricket; I don’t think I would have been able to get this kind of attention if there was only the Ranji Trophy.”
Thampi, though, had to wait till his third match to get his first IPL wicket. “But, I didn’t feel under any pressure,” he said. “And I have also got to thank the team management, who backed me completely.”
His first wicket was that of Gayle. “You could not have asked for too many bigger wickets than that,” Thampi said. “Trapping him lbw with a yorker is something that I will never forget. Getting the wickets of Kohli, Dhoni, Manish Pandey and Kieron Pollard was special, too.”
The bowler from Perumbavoor (near Kochi) said he was indebted to many people at Gujarat Lions.
“Captain Suresh Raina, coach Brad Hodge, bowling coach Heath Streak, fellow pace-bowlers Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar have all been immensely helpful,” he said.
“And it has been a privilege sharing the dressing room with the likes of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, James Faulkner and Ravindra Jadeja.”
Thampi has now started dreaming of an India cap. And he wants to add more variety to his bowling. “I want to work on swing and reverse swing,” he said. “But, I will never compromise on my pace.”
Basil Thampi at the IPL:
Matches: 11. Overs: 41. Wickets: 10. Best: 3 for 29. Ave: 38.10. Economy: 9.29. Strike rate: 24.60.
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