2018, the year when the senior Indian cricket team was still juggling amongst the Ambati Rayadus & the Shreyas Iyers, in order to find a solid no. 4 for next years’ 50-over World cup, a young 18-year old miniature dynamite was exploding in the isles of SriLanka. Ayush Badoni, on the U-19 test tour to the island nation, south of India was making a meal of the SriLankan bowlers on his way to a brilliant 185* of 205 balls.
It has been a year since the legend Yuvraj Singh has retired and Suresh Raina seems far from getting back to India colors. There hasn’t been a consistent no. 4 or no. 5 in the ODI format for the Indian team. Owe to the lack of vision from the selectors or confidence shown by the team management, we have little talent to call anyone a match-winner in his own rights. Shreyas Iyer is just digging his feet on the no. 4 spot. However, he still has a long way to go in order to be called a dependable option. For the time being, let’s focus on the man (or boy if you may call him) who has the potential to become the ideal middle-order batman for the next decade.
Yes, you might be wondering what has Ayush Badoni done till now to garner my attention above the likes of Priyam Garg, who was the captain of the Indian Team in the Under 19 World Cup 2020 in South Africa. Well, for one an ideal middle-order batsman should not only possess the skill to hit big sixes without having to step out of the crease but also the mental strength to absorb pressure whenever the top order fails. And if one has the ability to roll his arm over, it adds to the balance of a cricket team. Proof of all these will be provided below. You might say that it is too early to sing praises about this kid considering he has hardly been seen in the picture let it be the recent U-19 world cup or the IPL auctions. But before coming to a conclusion, let’s get to know him better first.
Ayush is a Delhi boy coming from a middle-class family whose father does not belong to any sports background and whose mother is a teacher. Despite the contrasting background of his parents to his, what is heartening to see is the way they allowed the talent to flower by putting him in the right hands of Tarik Sinha and Balraj Kumar, his coaches at a tender age of 9.
As quoted by Balraj Sir in one of his conversations about Ayush – “I used to feed him around 1000-1500 underarm balls on top of the roof covered with nets”, shows the hunger he had for batting for long hours at such a tender age. He used to regularly miss family functions just to play his favorite game. He has played Delhi under 14, under 16, under 19, under 23, and of course, has represented India Under 19. He was initially a pure batsman. But when he learned that the India U19 team was looking for a decent all-rounder, he put more focus on his bowling as well resulting in his selection to the Srilanka tour.
Still Head and Determination
Not only does he have the rare ability to hit towering sixes without having to move an inch from his crease, but he also has the will and temperament to play the long innings when the situation demands. A case for proof is the innings I had given a glimpse of at the start of this article.
Walking into bat at No. 7 to join his teammate Nehal Wadhera, when his team was in a tricky situation at close to 300 for the loss of 5 wickets, he not only showed the fearless attitude he possesses by taking the attack to the bowlers but also displayed character and skill to prolong the innings taking India’s total to 589. A lead of 245 in the first innings of the first test on the tour from a position of just 50 runs lead when he joined Wadhera at the crease. On the way, he made sure he stamped his authority by smashing the record books. An innings of 185 studded with 19 fours and 4 clean sixes at no. 7.
You might already be googling about this innings. If you have found the video, please notice his head position while playing every shot. Be it while dancing down the track to loft a spinner straight like a ramrod over his head or bending low down to hit a massive one over long-on, his head is as still as a boulder in midst of a storm. Do not miss his late cuts & sweeps of the spinners or the majestic cover drives to the fast bowlers as well. The hand-eye coordination is something to note as well.
A handy bowler
In the same match, he took six wickets through his handy off-spinners to help India register a comprehensive victory in the first test. India went on to clean sweep the 2-test match series with the contribution of other future stars about whom I would write soon.
A minor weakness
As almost every subcontinental batsman has had this common flaw in their technique in their initial years, I found the same in Ayush’s case as well. It is the tendency to play away from the body to an away going delivery from a seamer. While this can be easily overcome with proper guidance and experience considering his tender age, it is always best to iron out the flaws as early as possible in order to not repeat the same mistakes.
Future ABD of India? Come on…
Asia Cup 2018 final, India 194/3 in the 41st over. Ayush Badoni joins wicket-keeper batsman Prabhsimran Singh and India finishes the innings at 304/3. What happens in between in these 9 overs? The duo of Ayush and Prabhsimran just tears apart the Srilankan bowling into pieces. Here’s a glimpse of the innings progression from the 46th over.
India was at a score of 225. Ayush Badoni was facing the best spinner of the day for Srilanka, Dulshan. The first ball he bends down a bit and bludgeons him over cow corner for six. One by one 4 sixes in that over, each one of them completing a full follow-through of his bat over his left shoulder ending behind his back. And this started the absolute annihilation of the bowling attack by the two compiling a mammoth 79 runs in the last 5 overs. Ayush finishing his innings at 52 not out of just 28 balls comprising of 5 huge sixes and 2 fours. He also chipped in with 7 overs of his spin bowling on the way for India to lift the Asia Cup. So what made me project him to the likes of AB De Villiers? The answer would lie largely in his style of batting which is not just slam-bang, but the technique that seamlessly blends into his strokeplay. There is still a whole long way to go before he proves admirers like me right. But the way he has been middling from the middle order in this little span of his career shows a huge lot of promise for India’s future.