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Tamil Nadu’s ‘Mustafizur’ ready for ‘action replay’

Thangarasu Natarajan is fondly called the Mustafizur Rahman of TN, though he has not played enough cricket at the highest level. So when the 25-year-old from a village near Salem landed the three crore bid from Kings XI Punjab earlier this week in the IPL auction, many revisited the bowling action of the TN left-armer and also the crucial period of rehabilitation he underwent before this season.

Tamil Nadu’s ‘Mustafizur’ ready for ‘action replay’
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Thangarasu Natarajan is fondly called the Mustafizur Rahman of Tamil Nadu

Chennai

The little known 25-year-old’s life changed in a matter of few minutes as Rs 10 lakh base price saw a quantum 30-time jump reaching Rs 3 crore with Virender Sehwag vigorously raising the pedal for Kings XI Punjab. 

The turning point for the Chemplast player in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association league was his stint with the inaugural TNPL last year when he played for the Dindigul Dragons but there was a period before that when he thought his career was over when he was reported for suspect action when he played for TN in Ranji Trophy in 2015. 

“I thought that was the end,” Natarajan said. “I must thank TNCA coach Sunil Subramaniam, and former TN players D Vasu and L Balaji for their effort to bring me back into shape.” 

For his part, Sunil Subramaniam said he had not seen a bowler like Natty before. “In many ways he is unique. Even when his front foot lands, his wrist is pointed towards mid-on (sideways), which is unusual,” explained Sunil. “And when I worked on his wrist turn, I had doubts whether he would lose his pace, but he bowled at 125138 (km/hour) after remodeling which was again surprising,” added Sunil and recalled the bowling action of Mustafizur (Bangladesh) and Moeen Ali (English spinner) for comparison. 

Sunil said Natty’s bowling action was a by-product of the tennis ball cricket he played before coming to Chennai six years ago. “You have to be quicker through the air if you have to be successful in that form of cricket and that action actually helped him find his pace,” said Sunil. 

“And when he was going through the action correction, it was somewhat easy for us because he had not played much cricket with the normal ball and there was no muscle memory (experience in the hand with a particular system),” explained Sunil. 

For Natarajan, the IPL windfall meant he could forget the days of hardships when his mother ran a street side stall and father worked as a porter at railway station. And the then 20-year-old, one of the five children, was plying his trade at tennis ball games in his native Salem. 

Natarajan recalls how TNPL changed his life.”There was a lot of pressure when I was picked to play in TNPL. But I am thankful to people like (Ravichandran) Ashwin, M Vijay and L Balaji (TN bowling coach) who instilled the belief in me that I was good enough at the Ranji Trophy level. It was my dream to play Ranji Trophy which has been fulfilled and now I look forward to meeting people in the IPL and learning from them,” he said. 

Has he talked to his new Kings XI teammates? “I have not got the time to even look at the list,” said Natty. But one name that he would not miss is that of Murali Vijay, the Kings XI Punjab captain. Ironically, Vijay, a well-established Indian player is paid almost the same amount that Natty gets for Kings. Well, that is how it works in IPL. When rookie Murugan Ashwin was picked last year for Rs 4.5 crore it made headline. But this year the correction came when the same Ashwin went for Rs one crore. 

Even R Ashwin, with his status as the best spinner in the world, got paid only Rs 7.5 crore mainly because slow bowlers don’t enjoy the same price tag as their fast counterparts or the explosive batsmen. Strangely, Dinesh Karthik,another valuable player went for Rs 2.2 crore. Who said IPL is a lottery? 

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