Mayank Yadav not in Shoaib Akhtar, Lockie Ferguson category. But he’s nothing like India have seen before | Cricket

As he stood at the top of his bowling mark, blissfully unaware of the buzzing anticipation around him, one’s heart pounded just that bit harder, the blood raced just that tad faster. And we were seated 150 metres from the action, in the comfort of an air-conditioned box. The expectation of raw pace can do that, you know.

Mayank Yadav(BCCI/IPL)
Mayank Yadav(BCCI/IPL)

Mayank Yadav arrived in Bengaluru with one IPL appearance, and one Player of the Match award, under his belt. He left the Garden City with two of each after a magnificent display, three for 14 from four overs, the scalps of Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green and Rajat Patidar deserved rewards for one of the finest spells of pace bowling seen at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium for a long, long time.

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There is something mesmeric about watching a spinner, especially a wrist-spinner, in action. On the most placid of surfaces, he can embarrass even the most established of batters. But there is nothing more visceral, more starkly exciting, than the sight of an express fast bowler scorching earth as he attacks the batters with everything he has got.

It’s early days yet and one must resist the temptation to get carried away, the logical mind cautions. The merry heart counters – let tomorrow be damned, let’s enjoy today. So let’s get carried away. Let’s rejoice in the skill and fortitude of Mayank Yadav, not yet 22 but already the talking point of IPL 2024.

There is so much to like about this unassuming young man from a cricketing standpoint. With so many bowlers, such as Shoaib Akhtar or Lockie Ferguson or, closer home, Umran Malik, you see the effort that goes into bowling quick. The explosive run-up, the exaggerated load-up, the face contorted as everything is thrown (no pun intended) at getting the ball to the other end as quickly as possible. And then there are others like Jofra Archer, and Ajit Agarkar, the current chairmen of selectors, who made bowling fast seem effortless. For those that might snigger at Agarkar’s mention, take a stroll down memory lane or look up videos of the late 1990s and the early 2000s – 90 mph was a norm, his rapidity belying his slender frame.

Mayank belongs in the Archer-Agarkar category, lithe and wiry, no visible strain as he hurls the ball with tremendous – and we mean tremendous – pace. 144 kmph is just the appetiser; the main course has 153, 155, all accomplished with such subliminal ease that you wonder where he generates the pace from. Then you realise – that beautiful run-up, rhythmic and unhurried, the hands close to the body, the strides of an athlete, the closeness to the stumps at the point of delivery, the braced front foot. Poetry in motion, you might say.

Mayank didn’t get to bowl at Virat Kohli, he only bowled one ball to Faf du Plessis – who was run out off that very delivery. But he needed only three deliveries to get rid of Maxwell, who attempted a pull without bargaining for the pace, was hurried into the stroke and suckered into hitting the ball up in the air. He harried Green through sheer pace, the tall batter’s subconscious quarter step back an invitation of hit the off-stump. Raw pace, man, can it intimidate the best!

Remarkably, despite the rate of knots at which he was hurling the ball, Mayank seldom lost control. Of his 24 deliveries on Tuesday night, 16 were dot-balls; there was not a single wide. His 48 IPL balls have brought him figures of six for 41. Surely, he must currently be more than just an outside bet for a place in the T20 World Cup squad.


But why not?

If Mayank has a few more good matches over the next three and a half weeks, Agarkar and his panel must seriously consider fast-tracking him to the international level. If he is bowling rapidly now, why wait for him to lose pace before unleashing him on the opposition? If he shows that he has the calmness and the assurance and the temperament to move up the rungs – as he has – then what are we waiting for? Why not maximise his X-Factor, why not give Jasprit Bumrah an equally aggressive partner to work with?

Of course, we haven’t seen a yorker yet from him. Or a slower delivery – which takes me back to a conversation with the legendary Andy Roberts nearly 18 summers back. In St John’s, Antigua, I asked him if he ever bowled a slower one.

“Why, maan? Why would I do that?”

“Uh, just for variety…”

“For variety, maan, I bowled a faster one.”

Over to you now, Mayank.


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