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Thangarasu Natarajan is the new flavor of Indian cricket. He has had an outstanding IPL 2020 season with Sunrisers Hyderabad. But he still didn’t get a berth in the touring Indian team for the Australia series Down Under. He was selected for the T20I series against Australia after Varun Chakravarthy was ruled out due to injury. 

However, as luck would have it, Natarajan made his ODI debut first in the third ODI at Canberra after Navdeep Saini was ruled out due to back spasms.

T Natarajan (Picture credits: India TV News)  Natarajan
T Natarajan (Picture credits: India TV News)

And since then, Natarajan has been flying high, with 2 wickets in the third ODI, and 3 wickets in the first T20I. And both the matches India won after suffering two embarrassing losses in the first two ODIs.

Natarajan’s performance Down Under has sparked curiosity in his inspiring journey from a poverty-ridden family in Chinnappampatti, about 36 km from Salem, in Tamil Nadu to a match-winner in Australia. If not spotted by Jayaprakash, who then ran the Chinnappampatti Cricket Club, Natarajan or Nattu, as he is better known, would still have been playing tennis ball cricket, and helping his family in running their fast food shop back home.

But Jayaprakash not only convinced his parents to allow Nattu to pursue cricket but also took him under his wings and help him learn the tricks of the trade. Nattu, the eldest of his five siblings, slowly climbed the ladder of cricketing success, when he represented Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy in 2015. But he came under the scanner for suspect bowling action. And it made Nattu go back to the basics, and correct his bowling action.

T Natarajan and Virat Kohli (Picture credits: ESPNCricinfo)  Natarajan
T Natarajan and Virat Kohli (Picture credits: ESPNCricinfo)

And soon it paid dividends when he was picked up by Dindigul Dragons in the 2016 Tamil Nadu Premier League. An IPL contract soon followed, with Punjab paying Rs 3 crore to get Nattu’s services. But Nattu failed to impress, managing 2 wickets out of 6 games in the 2016 IPL season. 

He was bought by SRH in 2018 IPL but didn’t play a game until 2020 IPL where his talent and the skills to bowl unplayable yorkers were finally noticed. And thus, he earned the nickname of Yorker King. He bagged 16 wickets in 16 games in IPL 2020 and had done enough for selectors to select him as a replacement for Chakravarthy. And then the rest is history.

But Natarajan gives his due to his mentor Jayaprakash, wearing all his jerseys with the initials JP. His IPL jersey reads JP Nattu, and his Instagram handle is natarajan_jayaprakash – as a tribute to his guru.

Now, Nattu runs The Natarajan Cricket Academy in Chinnappampatti to unearth more talent like him in his hometown so that the world could see another Nattu playing Down Under. 

Cover image courtesy: NDTV Sports