Thangarasu Natarajan: From Chinnapampatti to Canberra

Thangarasu Natarajan, more popular as T Natarajan, became the latest addition to the Indian Cricket Team’s Playing XI in Canberra, Australia on Wednesday. Making his debut at the age of 29 years, Natarajan’s journey has been an inspirational tale of belief, hard work, and sincerity. Making his debut for Virat Kohli’s India at Manuka Oval, Natarajan returned with 2 wickets and played an important role in the men in blue’s sole win.

Hailing from Chinnapampatti, a village near Salem in Tamil Nadu, Natarajan caught the eye of the selectors with his bowling spells in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020. Featuring for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Natarajan was a regular on the side and was David Warner’s go-to man when the situation demanded.

With 16 wickets from 16 matches, Natarajan became the cynosure for delivering yorker at his will and choking the batsmen at the death overs. Such was his prowess that India’s World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev expressed, “Natarajan was my hero of the IPL.” Natarajan’s prized possession was Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers among others in IPL 2020.

Featuring as only the 5th fast bowler from Tamil Nadu and the first since Lakshmipathi Balaji in 2002, Natarajan’s rise has roped in comments from the likes of Ian Bishop and Tom Moody.

Natarajan’s struggle knew no bounds. Hailing from a remote village he played only tennis ball cricket till the age of 20. His father, a daily wage labourer, and his mother a roadside snack shop worker, never gave up on their dream of watching Natarajan play cricket for India. And Natarajan, too, never gave up his hope.

Making his first-class debut in 2015, Natarajan fought his way up the ladder of success and finally got a breakthrough in IPL. Natarajan was bagged by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3 crore but the left-arm pacer played only 6 games, picking up only 2 wickets in 2017. However, ahead of IPL 2018, SRH bought him for Rs 40 lakh but he didn’t get a place in the playing XI in the first 2 seasons. A good spell in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy helped him make an IPL return.

Included in the ODI squad as a backup, an overwhelmed Natarajan quipped after his debut match, “It was a surreal experience to represent the country. Thanks to everyone for your wishes. Looking forward for more challenges.”