TIRUNELVELI: When Arya Yohan Menon took a walk from the stumps at the non-striker's end, marking his long run-up to bowl his first over for Nellai Royal Kings on debut in the Tamil Nadu Premier League against Salem Spartans on Saturday, the packed crowd at the ICL Ground in Tirunelveli did not know much about the left-arm pacer.
The 19-year-old walked a couple of steps before picking up pace in his run-up and angling a short-of-length delivery from over the wicket across Jafar Jamal who tried to hit it through the line between mid-off and covers.
But when Sanjay Yadav moved to his left and held on to a low catch at mid-off, the entire stadium erupted for the debutant who had picked up a wicket with his first-ever delivery in the TNPL - the fifth bowler to do so.
They cheered not because of who the 19-year-old was --- not many knew he is the son of Tamil film director Gautham Vasudev Menon --- instead, it was because he was one of their own --- a Nellai Royal King. Yohan continued to vary his length and pace, finishing his first spell of two overs with 1/15 in the powerplay.
He came back for his second spell in the penultimate over of the innings. This time, he was trying to nail wide yorkers from around the wicket and was often successful at it. In the first four balls, he conceded just three runs and effected a run-out. But Daryl Ferrario adjusted well by walking down the wicket and hit the last two deliveries for four.
While his figures of 1/26 were nothing to write home about, Yohan showed he has the skills for the T20 format and can hold his own under the pressure of playing in front of a packed crowd in a televised match. Nellai restricted Salem to 149/7 and chased down the target comfortably in 17.4 overs with five wickets to spare.
Yohan started his cricketing journey like anybody else at the age-group level, playing for Tamil Nadu U-14. Since then, he has been playing divisional cricket in Chennai. While he was not a part of the initial Nellai Royal Kings squad from the draft earlier this year, Yohan was a net bowler with them before the tournament.
"Watching me in the nets, our coach Shanmumgan sir was impressed. He backed me and included me in the squad, so I would like to thank him for this opportunity," said the overwhelmed 19-year-old after the match in his first-ever media interaction.
As far as the experience of playing on a big stage, the nervous youngster said he enjoyed it a lot. It seemed like only microphones make him nervous. With a ball in hand on the cricket field, Yohan looked at home.
Brief scores: Salem Spartans 149/7 in 20 ovs (Ferrario 60 n.o; Davidson 2/28, Harish 2/30, Yohan Menon 1/26) lost to Nellai Royal Kings 152/5 in 17.4 overs (Ajitesh 48 n.o, Suryaprakash 35).