Tilak Varma’s knock is proof he can barge into Team India for ICC T20 World Cup

Tilak emerged as the top-scorer for MI on Wednesday night. (Source: X.com)

Records are meant to be shattered, and Match 8 of the IPL 2024 exemplified that as fans were treated to a high-scoring thriller in Hyderabad. On Wednesday, Sunrisers Hyderabad clinched an impressive victory at home, defeating the Mumbai Indians by 31 runs. Describing the batting spectacle witnessed in Hyderabad might fall short, but the numbers speak volumes.

Last night, Mumbai Indians endured their toughest bowling outing ever as the five-time champions conceded a staggering 277 runs to a rampant Sunrisers Hyderabad batting lineup. In reply, MI recorded their highest-ever IPL score of 246/5.

Commitment and resilience emerged as the key talking points of Mumbai Indians’ clash against SRH. Despite suffering a 31-run defeat, the MI batters left no stone unturned in putting up a valiant fight against SRH, who set the highest-ever IPL target, just slightly out of reach for MI in the end.

While expectations were more on senior MI batters like Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, and skipper Hardik Pandya to do the bulk of the scoring, it was young Tilak Varma who stole the show by top-scoring for his team in the losing affair. When Tilak walked out to bat at his home ground in the powerplay, the home crowd was buzzing not because of his arrival but because they saw the back of Rohit Sharma. MI was under immense pressure.

With young Naman Dhir at the one end, who was playing his second game for MI, Tilak, being the elder statesman, took the onus of attacking the bowlers right from the word ‘Go’. However, Tilak took a bit of time at the start by scoring 11 (11). But in the eighth over, he smashed a six off Mayank Markande’s bowling that really got him going. Tilak is one of the better players of spin in India.

In the 10th over, he smashed 21 runs off Shahbaz Ahmed to disrupt Shahbaz’s figures, which were pretty economical until the 10th over. In the next over, he smashed a boundary over cover to complete a 24-ball 50. Till the time Tilak was there, it felt like ‘maybe’ MI can chase this down, but when he departed, it was almost over for them. The asking rate was too much, and in an attempt to up the ante, he fell for a 34-ball 64. Mumbai had reached 151 by the end of 11 overs. 127 in 9 overs looked very gettable until Tilak was there. After he departed, Hardik’s knock — 24 off 20 — killed the entire momentum. Still, the effort was valiant from the youngster, given the magnitude of the run chase. Tim David couldn’t help himself from praising Tilak’s efforts with the bat:

“Tilak (Varma) played beautifully. Hitting the ball cleanly is close to the best of what Tilak’s got. I say that because I still think he’s got more than that as well, and we saw a pretty special innings tonight,” he said.

The way Tilak attacked the spinners and controlled the middle overs, it never seemed like he was under any sort of scoreboard pressure. He soaked the pressure well, took calculated risks, and ended up being the highest run-scorer in the game for his team. The boundary off Jaydev Unadkat’s bowling in the 11th over, over covers, showed that he’s not just a one-dimensional player. He can play equally well on both sides of the wicket and has different gears to his batting.

Mind you, this IPL is an audition for the ICC T20 World Cup in June. Tilak is surely one of the contenders looking to seal his berth in the 15-player squad. There are not too many quality left-handed middle-over enforcers in the country right now apart from Tilak, Rinku Singh. If Tilak continues to put in performances like this, the selectors will be forced to vacate one spot for the Hyderabad-based batter. In the slow, low pitches of the Caribbean, proficiency in playing spin will be crucial for players aiming to secure a spot in the squad for the mega event, and Tilak undoubtedly possesses this skill.

It was indeed a forgettable day for MI with the ball, as they not only conceded the highest total ever in IPL history but also allowed most number of sixes in a match in their history. Additionally, they leaked the most runs they’ve ever done in the 7-15 phase and were hit for 81 runs in the powerplay, marking the second-worst performance with the new ball in their history. Positives with the ball were scarce.

Scoring an 18-ball fifty in T20s is a remarkable achievement, but SRH’s Abhishek Sharma took it a step further by reaching his half-century in just 16 deliveries, breaking Travis Head’s record which lasted only minutes. Like Tilak, the 23-year-old demonstrated how it’s done with his fearless approach to batting. Achieving a strike-rate (273.91) better than it takes some herculean efforts to outpower the likes of Head (258) and Heinrich Klaasen (235) in terms of strike-rate. Abhishek did just that.

Both Tilak and Abhishek are still in their early 20s, but the way they are playing suggests they are more mature than their age implies. Both performing well in the early stages of their careers is a good sign for Indian cricket.

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