In just his second season, Tilak Varma has already established himself as one of Mumbai Indians’ crisis men in the batting department. While the 2022 edition of the IPL ended up as a forgettable campaign for the five-time champions, the left-hander’s emergence was arguably the lone bright spark as Varma tallied close to 400 runs in his maiden IPL season, impressing one and all with his batting.
If anything, the 2023 season has only gotten better for Varma who has produced crucial knocks in four of the five games so far, including a vital 17-ball 37 in Mumbai’s latest victory – a 14-run win over Hyderabad – on Tuesday (April 18). Despite having made a fantastic start to his IPL career and his ability to be a solid number three, Varma has been largely used as a floater in the middle-order. However, it isn’t something that’s bothering him one bit.
“I’m always comfortable playing in any situation and have developed my game accordingly. I’ve also told the management that I can bat anywhere,” revealed Varma in the post-match press conference. “They are also confident of me and send me to bat in different situations. I’m confident of batting anywhere.”
While he has produced several impact knocks already in his brief career, Tuesday’s cameo was a special innings for Varma as it was his first IPL game at his home ground in Hyderabad. It was indeed a special moment for the local boy who stood up once again when Mumbai needed him the most to give a solid middle-overs boost.
“It’s always a dream to play at your home ground. To play, do well and then see your team win makes it all the more sweeter. I was very excited on the eve of the game and couldn’t really sleep well due to the nervousness. I’ve grown up playing here all these years and I’m glad that all the preparations came off well for me.”
On a slightly sluggish surface, Mumbai Indians had gotten off to a flier in the powerplay before experiencing a slowdown in the middle overs. Sunrisers’ bowlers, particularly the spinners, stuck to their discipline to keep the scoring rate at seven runs-per-over between overs 7-14. Varma, who had started sedately, broke the shackles in the 15th over of the innings.
Marco Jansen, who had bowled a fine spell till then, was bowling his final over that began with two fours in three balls from Cameron Green. Wanting to cash in on the momentum, Varma ended the left-arm seamer’s spell with consecutive sixes to cap a 21-run over. He then followed it up by smashing leg-spinner Mayank Markhande for a six and four as well.
“It (pitch) was turning a bit and I was just playing the situation,” said Varma. “There was help for the spinners, so I didn’t want to attack the spinners and was waiting for the seamers. Mayank and Washi (Sundar) were bowling really well, so I thought that I’ll play them (safely) and then charge the fast bowlers. (Later) I charged Mayank also as I knew we had batting to come”
We tried to stay in the game – Lara
Sunrisers Head Coach Brian Lara felt that his side put up a strong fight but also bemoaned the lack of consistent partnerships which hurt SRH in the eventual outcome. Mayank Agarwal had partnerships of 46 and 55 with skipper Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen respectively but Sunrisers lost wickets in clumps on either side of these.
“We were always in the game and I felt that the pitch was a 175-180 surface,” reckoned Lara. “It spun and was a bit slow off the deck. To get 192 was a decent score for the Mumbai Indians. We tried to stay in the game but we lost wickets consistently throughout the chase and that obviously slowed us down. Good opportunity to learn. They played the better cricket today and came out on top”
In pursuit of the stiff target, Sunrisers didn’t get off to the fast start that they’d have liked and a sedate powerplay meant that they had to play catch-up cricket in the middle overs. Lara, though, maintained that his side’s batting depth meant that they were always confident of compensating for the slow start.
“It was difficult but we bat pretty deep. To have Bhuvi and Markhande at 10 and 11, and Sundar at 9, we felt that we were always in with a chance. Losing wickets always sets you back. New batsman in the middle will always take a couple of balls to set. So that’s something for us to think about. In both our wins, we had a set batter batting through. Doesn’t matter how deep your batting is, you have to see that the right batters take the opportunity.”
One of the major talking points even before the game started was regarding SRH’s move to leave out express pacer Umran Malik who had been a starter in nearly all the games since his debut. Sunrisers opted to strengthen their spinning options instead by bringing in Washington Sundar and Lara stuck to his guns while speaking about the team selection.
“We felt that the pitch had a bit of turn in it. Obviously we have a lot of options in terms of bowling first. It’s a very tricky situation because you want to save your impact player for batting, and that was Abdul Samad. I think we played the best team for the pitch and the opposition that were playing.”
Sunrisers’ next assignment is an away fixture against the Super Kings in Chennai on Friday (April 21) while the Mumbai Indians shall be gearing up to host Punjab Kings on Saturday (April 22).