DINDIGUL : Though fixating on feet may be construed by many as a subject too risqué, it aptly sums up the essence of what makes Dindigul Dragons’ Thangarasu Natarajan tick on the field. “Bowling yorkers comes naturally to me. That’s because I started off with a lot of tennis-ball cricket,” was the explanation on offer from the sole left-arm speedster in the India Cements Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), with a penchant for laser-guiding the ball onto shoes and the base of stumps.
“I’m being given the ball during the death overs a lot more because of that, and I’m very comfortable in that role. But, I do want to take up more responsibility with the new ball. I’m working hard so that I can,” Natarajan elaborated after his four-wicket haul — that also won him the Man of the Match — against the Karaikudi Kaalai at the NPR College Ground on Sunday.
Not so coincidentally, he had uprooted an off and a leg stump each in the space of just three balls in the final over of Karaikudi’s innings with his in-the-blockhole torpedoes. They weren’t the only team to get this treatment. A week ago, the Albert Tuti Patriots too bore the brunt of six full-length missiles from Natarajan in a super over: the reason for Dindigul’s victory that day.
The end-to-end grin on his face after the seven-wicket win was also reflective of the fact that Dindigul had become the first team to seal a semifinal berth in the event. “We really wanted to win this one, and I gave my best because of that. I’m happy that it turned out to be my day.”
Hailing from Chinnappampatti village in Salem, the 25-year-old – also the eldest brother to his four other siblings – has trodden quite the cricketing narrative so far.
After being convinced to take up the sport in a professional capacity by his neighbour and pillar of support Jayaprakash, Natarajan climbed the rungs of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s (TNCA) divisions over four years. First Division giants Vijay CC and Jolly Rovers were his in-between pit stops during that time.
He eventually made his debut for the state against Bengal in 2015, and instantly made an impact with a three-wicket haul during that drawn fixture.
His chugging-along-smoothly life, though, hit a huge roadblock in the form of his inclusion in the list of 177 bowlers with suspect actions that the BCCI released a day after Christmas that year.
“Since I couldn’t play during that period, I was working with the TNCA in order to remodel my action. It was a tough time for me, both physically and mentally,” reminisced Natarajan. He got a clearance from the nation’s elite body a month later. “I did face a lot of problems. But, I had the backing of Jayaprakash anna and my coach Sunil Subramaniam. That helped me pull through.”
Owing to his yorker-delivering proficiency, bowling action, lean physique, and gait, Natarajan has been the subject of quite a few comparisons with Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman.“I’m not that big a bowler to be likened to him,” he quipped. “I still have a very long way to go. But, I definitely want to bowl like him.”
Karaikudi Kaalai 125/9 in 20 ovs (Anirudha 36, Badrinath 27; Natarajan 4/21, M Ashwin 3/30) lost to Dindigul Dragons 126/3 in 16.3 ovs (Raju 56 n.o, Victor 50; Ganapathy 2/23).