Mumbai Indians (MI) took Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) to town in Chennai during the 2023 Indian Premier League (IPL) Eliminator to book a place for themselves in Qualifier 2 and incredibly, their dominance was powered by the performance of a bowler who was virtually unknown before that. A number of their star players such as Cameron Green, Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma had significant innings but they were all reduced to nothing more than footnotes because of what Akash Madhwal did.
He ended with scarcely believable figures of 5/5 in 3.3 overs, dismissing LSG for 101 runs in reply to MI’s 182/8 in a match that will be remembered among the most one-sided of playoff games in the history of the IPL. This wasn’t a debut for Madhwal, it was in fact his seventh game of the season, and it isn’t the first time he is taking a significant number of wickets in a game either. That occasion came during MI’s final league game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, in which he got figures of 4/37. However, the fact that SRH had scored 200/5 and Cameron Green scoring a whirlwind 100 off 47 balls meant that Madhwal’s performance flew under the radar.
That was hardly the case on Wednesday – there are very few things in any format of the game that can trump figures of 5/5. This shattered the record for best bowling figures in an IPL playoff game, previously held by Doug Bollinger for his 4/13 for CSK against the erstwhile Deccan Chargers in the 2010 season. It was also the best bowling figures for an uncapped player, breaking the record previous held by Ankit Rajpoot (5/14 for Kings XI Punjab vs SRH, Hyderabad 2018). Finally, it was the joint fourth best figures for any bowler in an IPL game. The man whose record he equalled was India spin legend and former captain Anil Kumble, who had recorded figures of 5/5 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Rajasthan Royals in Cape Town in IPL 2009.
Mumbai Indians fans have been here before. Back in 2013 a little known fast bowler from Gujarat named Jasprit Bumrah had turned heads with his three-wicket haul on debut against RCB. There are two key differences though. Bumrah was making his debut in that game and he was only 19 years old back then. As stated before, Madhwal has become a regular for MI this season and he is 29 years old.
Madhwal gave up his regular job as an engineer to pursue cricket professionally. He earned his stripes in Uttarakhand’s tennis-ball cricket circuit where, among other things, his ability to bowl the yorker was honed. It was the yorker that he used to full effect on Wednesday and in the game against SRH as well. Any other delivery has the potential to be hit for runs in tennis ball cricket. As he graduated to more serious cricket levels, his love for bowling the yorker stayed. His journey at the highest level started in 2018 when he joined the Uttarakhand domestic team after the state cricket association received full membership from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Madhwal played 10 first class games for Uttarakhand and took 12 wickets in them. He has also played 17 List A games and taken 18 wickets while in T20s, he has now played a total of 29 games and taken 37 wickets. He was first taken in by RCB as a net bowler in 2019 before being whisked away by MI for the same role. Madhwal then managed to get a chance with the first team in the latter stages of the 2022 season, which was a rather forgettable one for MI. Eventually, his performances was recognised at the domestic level when he was made captain of the Uttarakhand T20 team.
The 2023 season turned out to be a better one for MI but the dream of getting Jofra Archer and Bumrah to attack in pairs hasn’t quite materialised, with both star pacers being sidelined by injuries. Enter Madhwal, who started with figures of 0/37 in his first game of the season against the Punjab kings. In the next match against CSK, he bowled just one over, gave away just four runs and took the wicket of the dangerous Devon Conway. His first head turner, however, was the three-wicket haul he got in his next game against the Gujarat Titans as MI beat the defending champions and this season’s finalist by 27 runs. His wickets were Wriddhiman Saha, Shubman Gill and David Miller and it was the fact that Suryakumar scored a sensational 103 not out off 49 balls that Madhwal’s performance went rather unnoticed. Another century, this time from Green, led to his four-wicket haul against SRH to go under the radar but in the Eliminator, it was the Uttarakhand pacer who shone the brightest.