Washington Sundar, India’s New Weapon in Powerplay Overs
Washington Sundar’s playing style seems to be similar to that of India’s head coach Ravi Shastri.
“What I learnt was that even the best of batsmen can’t hit all the balls. Everyone has an area where (if the ball is pitched there) they will have to play it out and go to the other end. I learnt this by watching these videos,” Washington Sundar had said in an interview with Sportstar in September last year.
At 18, the young Tamil Nadu all-rounder has a mature calm head on his shoulders, further proven by his parsimonious returns with the ball in Indian colours.
In his five T20Is for India thus far, Sundar has barely leaked any runs. He has completed his quota of overs in all five matches, conceding 22, 28, 23, 21 and 22. This tallies to an economy rate of 5.80, which, for a bowler with minimum of 100 balls bowled, is second best amongst full member nations.
While this is pretty good, it is nothing extraordinary until you take into account that he has bowled majority of his overs during powerplay. This is what separates Sundar from his compatriots.
The budding all-rounder has shrewd eyes, and observes the batsman like an eagle, pouncing on his weak spots to restrict the flow of runs.
I do a lot of homework for sure looking at different batsmen. I plan different things for different batsmen. For me to execute them in the match is very important and I should be really prepared to execute them under pressure, playing in front of big crowds against the likes of Pollard, Warner, Buttler or McCullum. Just by looking at the guy who is 17 they would want to put the pressure on you straightaway. Bowling against these guys was a big challenge and I was able to hold my nerve.Washington Sundar told Firstpost
Nothing showcased it better than his match-winning exploits against Bangladesh on Wednesday, 14 March, in a crucial match of the Nidahas Trophy T20 tri-series.
He opened the attack alongside Mohammad Siraj and started off with a full toss to Liton Das. Usually, a full toss is a poor delivery, but here Das was stepping out and therefore Sundar bowled a full toss to disturb the batsman’s movement. In the process, the ball hit his pads, which prompted India to appeal for an LBW dismissal. After the umpire turned them down, the Indians went for a review. Although, the review showed the umpire was right, Sundar had his man three balls later.
He enticed Das to step out and beat him with flight and turn. Dinesh Karthik did the rest behind the stumps as India found an early breakthrough after getting to a par total on a slow wicket. Sundar conceded just four runs in his first over, with five of the six deliveries being dot balls.
Rohit continued to persist with him throughout the powerplay and Sundar continued to justify the faith placed on him, picking up two more wickets – Soumya Sarkar and Tamim Iqbal – to reduce Bangladesh to 48/3 inside the powerplay overs. Sundar had conceded just 18 of the 48 runs leaked and picked up all three wickets, breaking the backbone of Bangladesh's top order.
For those who haven't watched Sundar bowl, his spectacular returns at Colombo would have been a shocker. But the fact is that the youngster has enjoyed success in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) and the IPL.
In the 2017 edition of the TNPL, representing Albert Tuti Patriots, Sundar was second in the wicket-takers chart with 15 wickets in nine matches at an average of 12.73. Even more impressive, as has always been the case with Sundar, was his mind-boggling economy of 6.16.
In the IPL, in his first full season, Sundar played under Steven Smith with MS Dhoni offering constant advice from behind the stumps and he returned with 8 wickets in 11 matches at an economy of 6.16, the second best in the entire season.
In both the leagues, he bowled in the powerplay overs in many matches, which makes his rate of conceding runs even more impressive.
India have a peculiar record in producing young spinners. L Sivaramakrishnan made his debut at 17 and was an instant success, but by the age of 21, he had played his last Test match.
The sensational Narendra Hirwani capped off his debut with a stunning 16-wicket haul on his debut against the Windies but lasted a mere 17 Tests.
Maninder Singh, another highly touted spinner, was 17 on his India debut but was in and out of the side for a decade without really fulfilling his promise.
Sundar, at 18, is another one of those promising young spinners. He may not want to glance too much at the aforementioned names given that they lost their sheen soon after shining at the highest level. One name he could take a cue from would be that of Ravi Shastri, the current Indian coach.
Shastri made his debut at 18 but went on to be a force with both bat and ball, excelling in a fabulous career of more than a decade. Sundar, like Shastri, is an all-rounder. While his bowling exploits have already gained recognition, he hasn't had many chances with the bat in the IPL. In fact, he hasn't walked out to bat even once for India.
However, his TNPL record suggests that Sundar is more than capable with the bat. He opened the batting and topped the run-scorers chart in the 2017 season (to go along with his 15 wickets in nine matches) with 459 runs in nine matches, including a hundred and three half-centuries. His whopping strike rate of 150+ and average close to 80 made the IPL franchises sit up and take notice.
At 18, Sundar has a long career before him that is slowly, yet steadily, taking shape. His inaugural IPL stint suggests he is a mature personality with a good understanding of his skills. The upcoming season, where he fits into Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore, offers him a chance to impress the Indian skipper.
History suggests that Kohli backs his RCB teammates to the hilt; Yuzvendra Chahal, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav being examples in this regard. If Sundar keeps doing what he inflicted on Bangladesh at Colombo, a long run in the limited-overs sides cannot be ruled out.
(Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @imRohit_SN)
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