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Nitish Rana: The next big thing?

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Nitish_Rana_Mumbai_Indians_IPL_CricketThe Indian Premier League has long been an exhibition for Indian youngsters to showcase their talent. Many unknown names have made it into the limelight and become household names, from 16 year old Sarfaraz Khan to the less-young (42 year old) Pravin Tambe.

Coming back from an injury, Rohit Sharma hasn't been at his best. Of the seven innings where he has batted, he has reached double digits in just two of them and been dismissed by leg-spinners in four. With their skipper out of form, Mumbai Indians needed their senior pros to step up. Mahela Jayawardene would have expected the experienced pros Kieron Pollard and Parthiv Patel to step up. But the answer to their prayers came in the form of a relatively lesser-known southpaw. Enter Nitish Rana.

The youngster has set this edition of the Indian Premier League on fire. He has changed the fortunes of his side by playing a crucial role, which has seen them top the table seven matches into the tournament, something which Mumbai Indians has struggled to do in the last few years.

 

The bludgeoning left-hander was the only ray of hope in Delhi's dismal 2015-2016 domestic season. He smacked 21 sixes in that campaign with 8 of them coming in a blistering 97 against Andhra Pradesh. He was given his Ranji Trophy debut in the same season, three years after making his debut in the limited overs format. He was magnificent yet again, scoring 557 runs at an average of more than 50, including a half-century on debut.

Having scored just 104 runs in the previous year’s IPL, Rana's confidence fell. After failing with the bat for Delhi, he was dropped from the side. This irked the Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir, who slammed coach KP Bhaskar, saying that he created an environment of uncertainty and judged the player based on few performances. That when a youngster is down on confidence, he needs some support. Thankfully, Gambhir and Rana's family had his back during the tough phase.

Rana came into the Mumbai Indians outfit after his home franchise Delhi Daredevils declined to opt for him. While there were a few flaws in his batting technique, Rana said that he got the same advice from both Gambhir and Jayawardene. "I could feel the change in my system. It took 10 to 12 days, as it was completely new for me and I had never done it before. Now, all of it is for everyone to see,” he said.

And boy, did that work wonders for him. Against Pune, he scored 34 runs before anchoring his side to back-to-back victories. He faced his first failure when he couldn't convert his start into a big one, falling for just 11 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. But he made his comeback scoring a magnificent half century against the Gujarat Lions in front of a packed stadium, donning the coveted Orange Cap for the first time in his career. Michael Clarke expressed his feelings on Rana, tweeting, “This boy Nitesh [sic] Rana is a very good player. Fantastic 50.”

Rana has batted with aggression throughout this tournament and is not afraid to take on the bowlers. A few matches later, Rana is one of the top five run-scorers of the tournament and feels proud that he donned the Orange Cap. “I had never planned on claiming it, but the way I started, it was there somewhere in my mind. I knew if I continued batting this way, I could get it at some point in the tournament. I feel really lucky to wear it”, said Rana with a huge smile on his face.

India currently has a good crop of youngsters who have been performing immensely well in the domestic arena. Thanks to the Indian Premier League, their talents are getting spotted. But the only problem that India faces is its inability to accommodate players like Rana when they are in top form with the bat.

A few matches certainly aren't enough to judge Rana's ability, but the leftie has showed immense application and impressive maturity for a 23-year old. The nation hopes for more consistent performers like Rana for the future.

 

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