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Who needs Aiden Markram when you have Nitish Kumar Reddy

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Last updated on 02 May 2024 | 07:52 PM
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Who needs Aiden Markram when you have Nitish Kumar Reddy

The 20-year-old is acing the middle overs with the bat and doing it with enough flamboyance

“There is no replacement for what he can do” - India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar was quick to brush off a question regarding Hardik Pandya’s spot in the T20 World Cup squad. The fast-bowling all-rounders are a rare breed in Indian cricket, so Pandya getting picked for the showpiece event despite being in terrible form came as no surprise to anyone.

Agarkar wasn’t wrong, India don’t have a readymade replacement for the 30-year-old. But there is a certain someone, a 20-year-old from Andhra, currently playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League 2024, who is slowly and steadily starting to make a name for himself, especially with the bat. Nitish Kumar Reddy is far from a ready product but the young all-rounder has all the ingredients to become the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Nitish isn’t an unknown commodity at the domestic level, having already proven himself in List A and First-Class cricket. However, he is still new to the 20-over format. Coming into IPL 2024, Nitish had played just seven T20s, five for Andhra and two for SRH in 2023. He made his IPL debut last year but didn’t get a chance to bat. Though this year has been different, the youngster is forcing everyone to stand up and take notice.

219 runs across six innings at an average of 54.75 and a strike rate of 154.2 - Nitish has quietly gone about his business while being sandwiched between big hitters like Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma, and Heinrich Klaasen. And 148 of those have come in the middle overs (7-15), where he has been sensational for SRH this season. He also has the second-best strike rate amongst batters with at least 140 runs in this phase.

The right-handed batter has been playing the role of a modern-day middle-order anchor for the Sunrisers. Someone who is not just there to hold the innings together in the middle overs but also scores at a good pace, something that Nitish has managed to execute successfully. And what he did against Rajasthan Royals on April 2 (Thursday) was no different. 

It wasn’t a usual start for SRH. They were up against the best bowling unit of the IPL 2024. Abhishek Sharma and Anmolpreet Singh were dismissed inside powerplay and Travis Head was also struggling to get going, with SRH operating around six runs per over. 

Nitish walked in to bat in the final over of the powerplay and got off to a slow start. He was on 5 off 10 at one stage before tonking R Ashwin for a six over wide long-on. That gave him some momentum, and in the very next over, Nitish muscled Avesh Khan’s length delivery over the deep mid-wicket fence. 

His best was yet to come and it came against Yuzvendra Chahal, one of the four spinners picked in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup. The leggie was greeted with a six down the ground before the next ball was lofted towards the extra cover region for a boundary. 

Also read: Who is Nitish Kumar Reddy - the all-rounder who idolises Virat Kohli?

Nitish missed out on the next two deliveries trying to reverse sweep, with Chahal targeting that wide line. The young batter accepted his mistake and once again went over the head of the bowler, getting his second six of the over. He still had a point to prove and he did that by finally connecting a reverse sweep off the final delivery. Just like that, Chahal was hit for 21 runs. 

And guess what, Nitish was always confident that he could take on Chahal. “Just backing myself from first ball. Got only 11 runs off 11 balls. I was backing myself for the Chahal over, it went pretty well. After that, I carried my game. I don't look at the bowlers who are bowling, just look at the ball, that's what I have been thinking, it really worked,” he said during the mid-innings break.

Nitish treated Ashwin in a similar fashion, whacking him for consecutive sixes in the 16th over. Overall, he slammed 44 off 18 deliveries against Chahal and Ashwin. This season, Nitish has a strike rate of 190.77 against spin, compared to 123.38 against pace. Amongst 17 batters who have got at least 100 runs against spin in this year’s IPL, Nitish has the fifth-best strike rate.

He dominated the 96-run partnership he had with Head but once Klaasen took over, Nitish took the back seat in the last couple of overs. He remained unbeaten on 76 off 42 - his highest score in T20s. That’s not it, Nitish smashed eight maximums, not only becoming the fifth SRH batter to do so in an innings but also the second youngest in IPL history.

This is not the first time he has rescued Hyderabad in this year’s IPL. Against Punjab Kings, he scored 64 off 37 and took SRH to 182 after they had lost three wickets in the first five overs. The Sunrisers won that game by two runs. In this encounter, that margin went down to just one run. 

Talking about Nitish, SRH captain Pat Cummins said: “He is fantastic. He summed up the conditions really well - took the first 10 balls to get himself in and then basically hit it wherever he wanted. He is amazing, is great in the field and gives a couple of handy overs as well.”

Nitish only bowled one over in this match, going for 12 runs, but has bowled a couple of crucial spells in the previous games. He got the wicket of Jitesh Sharma against PBKS and then dismissed Tristan Stubbs and Rishabh Pant against Delhi Capitals. A couple more such spells and it won’t be too long before the BCCI starts giving him extra attention. We all know how excited everyone gets when they see a domestic fast-bowling all-rounder doing well.

Nitish has bowled only 7.1 overs so far and is yet to gain Cummins’ trust in this department. But with the bat, the 20-year-old has already done enough for the management to drop an out-of-form Aiden Markram and play an extra seamer. To be honest, Nitish is doing what SRH expected from Markram. He is acing the middle overs and doing it with flamboyance.

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