Asia Cup: Coach's prayers answered as Tilak Varma makes his ODI debut against Bangladesh
Two seasons with Mumbai Indians at the IPL (2022 and 2023) polished Tilak further as he became an accomplished batter in the company of world-class support staff including Tendulkar.
COLOMBO: At 1:45 PM, coach Salam Bayash was about to leave Legala Sports Academy in Lingampally, Hyderabad for a nearby mosque to offer Friday prayer when his phone started ringing. The call made the coach grin from ear to ear as the caller was his famous protege Tilak Varma.
"He called me last evening as well and today when I was about to leave for Friday prayer. That has been the custom ever since he started playing age-group cricket (Under-14). On both occasions, he told me that there was a high chance of him making his ODI debut. I knew the time had come for the ODI debut and advised him to make the most of the opportunity he is getting and focus on his game without thinking much of the position he is batting at," coach Salam told this daily from the academy, where his students have decided to watch India's Asia Cup Super Four match against Bangladesh.
With the match being inconsequential, India made five changes to the squad handing ODI debut to Varma. The left-hand batter had made his T20I debut against West Indies last month. He played all five matches against the West Indies and was also in the playing XI when the Men in Blue played two T20Is against Ireland.
Tilak is in the 17-member Asia Cup squad but was excluded from the 2023 World Cup team announced earlier this month. The coach, however, said it would hardly matter as Tilak has just started and will get a lot of opportunities to represent the country at the biggest tournament.
"We discussed his World Cup exclusion as well. But I asked him to keep patience as this is just the beginning. More World Cups will come and he will get an opportunity to be part of Indian teams."
India on Friday rested Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah. Tilak, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Prasidh Krishna and Suryakumar Yadav came into the playing XI in place of them.
Given the bowling options skipper Rohit Sharma has at his disposal, it is a possibility that both Suryakumar and Tilak may bowl to fill in that genuine sixth bowler slot made vacant due to the absence of Hardik.
Salam's association with Tilak started when he was 10-11 years old. The day being a holiday, Salam reached the Abbas Stadium in Barkas to meet his fellow coaches. There he saw Tilak taking much older boys to the cleaners while playing with a tennis ball.
"I asked him where he stays and then I went to meet his father, an electrician with a PSU. They are a middle-class family. The father expressed his inability to drop off and pick Tilak to my academy which is 40km away. So I took the responsibility to pick him up in the morning at around 5 AM. He was a kid then so he used to sleep while pillion riding with me. But after three to four months, I convinced his father to shift near to my academy and he agreed. This made it possible for Tilak to focus only on his cricket and not spend too much time and energy on travel."
Two seasons with Mumbai Indians at the IPL (2022 and 2023) polished Tilak further as he became an accomplished batter in the company of world-class support staff including the batting legend Sachin Tendulkar.
"I asked him to pick the brains of these legends including Sachin sir. He did exactly the same. Since his junior days, he never shied away from working hard. He will follow the script and do whatever he has been asked to do. That habit has been helping him a lot," the coach had told this daily before the Asia Cup.