From shining in age-group and league cricket in Chennai to a breakout season in Tamil Nadu Premier League before being fast-tracked into the state white-ball teams, things moved rather swiftly for B Sai Sudharsan as he broke into the IPL.
The 20-year-old left-handed batter got himself noticed with a half-century for Gujarat Titans against Punjab Kings in an IPL game on Tuesday, albeit in a losing cause. The coaches, who saw him in his initial years, feel he is destined for bigger things in the game.
He impressed in the 2021 edition of TNPL in which he was the second highest scorer with 358 runs in eight innings at an average of 71.60. Sudharsan showcased his abilities for the formidable state side in the victorious Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign and also the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
After warming the bench at Chepauk Super Gillies previously, he had a breakout season for Lyca Kovai Kings in the 2021 TNPL and has been on the rise since. Apart from making the Tamil Nadu white-ball sides, he was also picked in the Ranji Trophy squad.
Son of Bharadwaj R, an athlete who has represented India in the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games and Usha, who has played volleyball for TN, the Chennai player has been able to make a mark in a different sport.
Picked up by Titans, one of the two new IPL franchises in 2022, for his base price of Rs 20 lakh, Sudharsan got a look-in when his state team captain Vijay Shankar pulled out due to back spasm. He made an assured 35 in his first IPL game.
After moderate returns with the bat in two subsequent games, he was benched before returning in style with an unbeaten 65 against an attack that included Kagiso Rabada and the fast-improving Arshdeep Singh.
His rise through the ranks has not surprised TN coach M Venkataramana, who says Sudharsan has worked hard and has the talent to go places.
"He is talented, has a wide range of strokes and has worked hard," he told PTI.
Further, Venkataramana said, "Sai (Sudharsan) is a good athlete and works hard on his game. It is good to see him keep improving. He has a good range of shots and has the ability to bat long once he settles down, which is a nice quality.
"As he keeps working on his game and other aspects, he will get better." State team assistant coach R Prasanna, a stalwart of TN cricket himself, said from the time he saw Sudharsan at an under-16 camp five years ago he knew that the left-handed batter had it in him to make it big.
"I saw him at an under-16 camp. I noticed he had the talent to score runs. Like all boys at that age, he was a playful lad and did not appear too focussed on fielding, fitness, etc. But he has changed phenomenally over the years.
"He has had the run-scoring knack and has worked hard to get the results. I am so happy for him," Prasanna said.
Sudharsan had been a heavy scorer in schools cricket and then did well for Alwarpet CC in the city league.
"He just kept getting better and the TNPL was a good platform for him to show the talent he had and catapulted him to the TN teams (white ball and red ball)," Prasanna added.
The TN assistant coach said Sudharsan's ability to handle the likes of Rabada and the others showed how much the young batter had improved and worked on his game to set himself up for bigger things.