India’s ex-head coach Ravi Shastri recently heaped praise on Mumbai Indians’ young batsman, Tilak Varma, lauding the 19-year-old’s form and versatility on pitch.

Tilak Varma, who played for India in the 2020 Men’s Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, has scored 83 runs in two matches for the IPL 2022 season. While his IPL team has yet to win a match, Varma’s performance has seemingly justified his Rs. 1.7 crore auction price, scoring 61 off 33 balls while snapping up 81 of 54 balls alongside teammate Ishan Kishan, in a recent game against the Rajasthan Royals. This recent show of skill has the old coach in awe, as Shastri shared his enthusiasm about Varma on Star Sports:

“He (Varma) has shown a lot of potential in both the innings he has played for Mumbai Indians. I am impressed looking at his wide range of shots — front foot, back foot, sweep. There’s a lot of variation in his shot selection. His composure, body language and temperament is very good for a young player.”

“He’s batted very confidently. This player has the potential to go ahead,” concluded Shastri.

Hailing Varma as a ‘good sign’ for the team, Shastri’s latest interest has a fascinating story behind himself. Here’s everything you need to know about India’s latest hotshot young player, and how he made it to the big leagues.

Early Years

Born in Hyderabad, Telangana on 8th November 2002, Tilak Varma’s origins were fairly humble. He attended the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet throughout his childhood, and is the son of an electrician, Namboori Nagaraju.

By the time Varma was around 10 years old, he had already developed an extreme interest in sports, especially cricket. It was around then that he enrolled himself at the Legala Sports Academy, and met his first mentor, Salam Bayash.

In an interview, Varma revealed that while his father worked hard to support his cricket training, it was often difficult to make ends meet. This was where Bayash swooped in, possibly sensing the young cricketer’s passion and potential. The coach took up Varma’s training expenses and ensured that he was provided with adequate equipment as well, even allowing him to bunk at his residence to make time for early-morning sessions.

“My father never says no to anything,” shared Varma. “I broke my bat once, so he said that he would buy a new one, but could not buy it for a long time. I then continued to play with the same broken bat. With the broken bat, I made the highest runs in U-16 cricket. When my coach saw this, he bought me everything I needed. Whatever I am today is due to my coach Salam Sir.”

Varma’s father also praised the coach’s efforts — noting just how difficult his son’s U-14 years were. “We needed to wake up at 4 am to reach the ground, which is 30 kilometers away from our home,” shared Nagaraju. “I had to drop him and attend to my work, and used to pick him up in the evenings.”

“Those five years were hard, but the efforts have paid off.”

After years of painstaking work, Varma finally made his first-class debut at the age of around sixteen, playing at the Ranji Trophy tournament on December 30th, 2018. 

Playing for Hyderabad against Andhra in his first match, Varma started a hot streak that lasted throughout the tournament, making 215 runs in seven matches at a strike rate of 147.26. This was soon followed by a great performance at the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare trophy, where Varma scored 180 runs in five games, along with four wickets.

By December 2019, Varma had distinguished himself enough to make it to the Under-19 Indian cricket team, and was ready to take on the World Cup. Here, Varma helped take the Indian squad all the way to the finals — scoring 38 and 48 in his two appearances.

This gave the young batsman the confidence he needed during next year’s Vijay Hazare trophy. While his family did struggle as his father failed to find work in the midst of the pandemic, Varma scored a stunning 391 runs in five matches for Hyderabad, cementing the solid reputation on which his Mumbai Indians recruitment stands.

“MI is a very big franchise, and also my favorite,” shares Varma. “They have worked a lot behind me in all categories: power hitting, bowling, and boosting my confidence by allowing me to play freely.”

“There are a few legends in this team,” he says, before noting the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, and Jasprit Bumrah. Will Tilak Varma also join this league of incredible cricketers? He certainly seems destined for it!

Tilak Varma’s next appearance will be at the MCA Stadium in Pune, as the Mumbai Indians take on Royal Challengers Bangalore.

(Featured Image Credits: @tilakvarma99/Twitter, @ravishastriofc/Twitter)