Young Mumbai Indians batter Tilak Varma had an engrossing cat-and-mouse battle with Rajasthan Royals' veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in Saturday's match at DY Patil Stadium.
Varma, who impressed everyone with his clean strokes on all sides of the wicket in just his second IPL innings, was batting on 61 when he reverse-swept Ashwin for a six over thirdman.
On the very next ball, Varma tried the conventional sweep but was foxed by the change in pace, dip and turn from the off-spinner to see his stumps shattered. It was the end of an innings where Varma, 19, became the youngest player to score a fifty for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, comprising five fours and three sixes.
"He's a legendary and world-class bowler for the Indian team. There was a bit of nervousness. But my plan was that one end was small (boundary) while the other end was big. In the starting, I knew that they would target the stumps and was waiting for it as they bowled in good areas. I knew that in order to be safe, they would pitch outside (stumps), so I tried the reverse (sweep) and then he came back on the stumps," explained Varma in the post-match virtual press conference.
But Ashwin bounced back on the very next ball to take out Varma, starting a wobble that ended in Mumbai losing by 23 runs. "I thought that if he (Ashwin) comes back to bowling on stumps, I would get a chance to hit another six so that it could be beneficial for the team. But the ball gripped a little and turned a bit so I got beaten. I was expecting the straight ball slower but got beaten by the little turn. Will try better next time," stated Varma, who plays for Hyderabad in the domestic circuit.
Mumbai were on course for chasing 194 when Varma and Ishan Kishan (54) were batting together for a crucial 81-run stand off 54 balls. Undoubtedly, Varma enjoyed batting alongside his fellow left-hander to keep Mumbai in the hunt.
"It was a pleasure batting alongside him (Kishan) because he's a very good hitter of the ball. When he plays well, as an opposite player, I get the confidence as he plays so easily."
"I have watched every bit of his batting from U19 and domestic season. Our plan was that if one of us stays till the end, we will easily chase. But it was not our day as unfortunately Ishan and I got out. It was a learning for us about the (importance of) finishing the game."
Varma dedicated his knock of 61 to his coach Salam Bayash and parents Namboori Nagaraju and Namboori Gayatri Devi.
"If not for my coach, I wouldn't have been here. Whatever I have done till now for the Mumbai Indians in today's match, I will dedicate all of it to him and to my parents. All three of them have worked hard for me. If all of them hadn't worked hard for me, all these results wouldn't have come today."
Varma signed off by expressing gratitude to the Mumbai Indians team packed with many legends of the game for working on his power-hitting as well as developing his bowling skills. "Mumbai Indians is a very big franchise as is also my favourite. They worked a lot on me in all categories, including working on my power-hitting as well as my bowling."
"They boosted my confidence by letting me play my own game. Also, there are a few legends in the dressing room like Sachin (Tendulkar) sir, Rohit (Sharma) bhai, Polly (Pollard) and (Jasprit) Bumrah. (Being) among many legends in the team makes me feel very confident. I really thank Mumbai Indians for backing me from the start of my career."