Tilak Varma's name has been doing the rounds in Indian cricket ever since he made his IPL debut for the Mumbai Indians in 2022. His talent and potential was visible from his very first IPL match, and that's why it has taken him just a year and two IPL seasons to break into the Indian T20I side.
With seniors like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli rested, the Indian selectors gave Tilak Varma and other youngsters the opportunity to showcase their talent in the five-match T20I series against West Indies. Varma found himself in the Playing XI in the very first match of the series, and it took him just a couple of deliveries to show what he is made of.
Varma walked in to bat at the fall of Ishan Kishan's wicket, with India reeling at 28/2 in their chase of 150. And it took him just two deliveries to show what he's got!
The youngster pulled a short ball from Alzarri Joseph for a big six over deep square leg boundary, just on the second delivery he faced and he followed that up with another six off a front foot pull shot in the very next delivery. Another boundary flowed from his willow a couple of deliveries later and Varma had scored 16 runs from the very first over he had faced in international cricket.
Tilak Varma's departure triggered India's collapse
The 21-year-old carried on in the same belligerent manner and looked all set to get his maiden T20I fifty. But his innings was cut short on 39 when he tried to pull Romario Shepherd for another six, only to be caught out at the deep midwicket boundary by Shimron Hetmyer.
His wicket triggered a collapse that led India to a four-run defeat against West Indies. India could have won if he would have stayed till the end, but this was his first innings at the international level and he didn't fail to impress during his short stay at the crease. On a deck that was two-paced and tricky, Varma recorded a strike-rate of 177.27, the highest among players who crossed the 30-run mark in the match.
Tilak Varma proved his mettle in two IPL seasons
In fact, Varma looked cut out for international cricket ever since he wore the Mumbai Indians jersey. He amassed 397 runs in his debut IPL season last year, averaging 36.09 runs per innings and scoring at a strike-rate of 131.02. He looked fluent at the crease, but the only drawback noticed in his style of play was his weakness against hard lengths and short balls.
Working on such a weakness and improving it generally takes quite a while, but Varma took just one year to iron that chink in his armour. The youngster looked at ease against all kinds of lengths and bowling in IPL 2023, which resulted in even better numbers. In 11 innings, Varma recorded an average of 42.88 and a much higher strike-rate of 164.11. He showed the ability to provide impetus to the innings in the middle-overs, proving equally lethal against both spin and pace bowling, and he showed the same ability in his debut for India.
As Tilak Varma navigates his way through the remaining four T20Is in the series, he will be eager to convert his starts into big scores and play match-winning knocks. That will help him to stamp his authority at the international level and make himself one of the first names in the team sheet for the upcoming T20I World Cup in 2024.