India captain Virat Kohli has said that T Natarajan could be in contention for the T20 World Cup next year at home if the left-arm seamer builds on his impressive start in Australia. On his first international tour, Natarajan stepped up with his yorkers and slower variations, in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah, helping India to a 2-1 T20I series win. Natarajan made an impact on his ODI debut as well, picking the wickets of Marnus Labuchange and Ashton Agar in another match-winning spell in the third game of the series.
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"Natarajan - special mention to him because in the absence of [Mohammed] Shami and Bumrah, he's been the guy who has stood up and really delivered under pressure which is outstanding for the fact that he's playing his first few games at the international level," Kohli said during a virtual media interaction. "He's very composed, very sure of what he wants to do. He's a very hardworking guy, very humble guy, and you feel happy for guys who are committed and working hard for the team when they get the results and make the team win.
"So, I wish him all the best and I hope that he continues to work hard on his game and continues to get better because a left-arm bowler is always an asset for any team. So if he can bowl that well consistently it will be a great thing for us heading into to the [T20] World Cup next year."
Natarajan, you were outstanding this series. To perform brilliantly in difficult conditions on your India debut speaks volumes of your talent and hardwork You deserve Man of the Series from my side bhai! Congratulations to #TeamIndia on the win pic.twitter.com/gguk4WIlQD— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) December 8, 2020
The T20I leg of the tour ended with Natarajan posing with both the series trophy and the Player-of-the-Series trophy, which Hardik Pandya had handed over to him, in the team photo. Natarajan wasn't supposed to be in India's T20I squad in the first place. He was originally picked as a net bowler, but an injury to mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy opened up an opportunity and he seized it with a chart-topping six wickets at an economy rate of 6.91 in a high-scoring T20I series.
Speaking to Sony Pictures Network, Natarajan said that he didn't burden himself with expectations and simply backed himself to execute his skills.
"I'm very happy to have played against a good team in Australia and won the series," Natarajan said. "I have no words to describe my happiness. I didn't have many expectations. I just came in as a net bowler and then because of some injuries I got a chance. I just wanted to utilise that chance. I was in good form in the IPL which helped me. Everyone around me supported me and motivated me, so I had the confidence to do well here."
In the second T20I, Natarajan showed that there's more to him than just the yorker, bowling offcutters into the Sydney pitch and threatening the edges of the bat. On a used Sydney pitch on Tuesday, Natarajan rolled out more cutters to pull Australia back in the slog overs.
"I just backed my strengths - the yorkers and cutters. Depending on the conditions, I ask the wicketkeeper or captain whether I need to bowl the slower ones or yorker. I adapt to it depending on that. I didn't change too much about my bowling. Whatever I did in the IPL, I wanted to do it in Australia and wanted to execute it cleanly."
It has been an incredible couple of months for Natarajan. On the day he became a new dad, he yorked AB de Villiers with what was arguably the ball of IPL 2020. He then received his maiden T20I cap from one of his heroes Bumrah earlier this month in Canberra. If Natarajan continues to evolve, he could well be bowling alongside Bumrah in the 2021 T20 World Cup in the death overs.