There are players who rise through the ranks quickly and then there’s Tim David. Precisely 10 months ago, all that David had next to his name was nine Big Bash League appearances for the Perth Scorchers. Indeed, he was, by then, an established Singapore international who had quite the record back home, but in the Australian domestic scene, David was largely a player on the fringes that struggled to break into the first XI.
The name ‘Tim David’ was popular amongst fans but not due to cricketing reasons - it was because he was someone with ‘two first-names’. The Scorchers let him go at the end of the 2019/20 BBL season and with the pandemic bringing the world to a stand-still, his career was at crossroads.
Fast forward to September 2021, the David that spent a vast majority of his time carrying drinks in Western Australia seems like an unrecognizable character from the past. In a span of eight months the Singapore-born batsman has not just become a BBL superstar, but one of the most sought-after entities in franchise cricket.
The 25-year-old has already played and impressed in the PSL, CPL, The Hundred and Royal London Cup, and in a few days' time will be flying to UAE to play in the biggest franchise competition in the sport, where he’ll be sharing the dressing room with the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and Glenn Maxwell. There are even murmurs that he could potentially be squeezed into Australia’s T20 World Cup contingent as a last-minute standby should the need arise.
It is a rise that truly is unprecedented, but this fairytale story would never have happened if not for a reality check that David got in 2019.
Two years ago in UAE, the lanky right-hander averaged a mere 21.16 across 6 matches in the qualifiers for the 2020 T20 World Cup as Singapore finished second-to-bottom in their group. Four points were all they could collect from six games, and the results meant that the country’s World Cup dream was officially dashed.
It was this disappointment that would prove to be the catalyst for David’s ascension.
“We played the World Cup qualifier in UAE in 2019 and there, David failed. He could not score runs and he ended up underperforming in the competition. It was at the end of this tournament that he told our head coach that he wanted some time off to develop his game. He said that he wanted to do some ‘personal training’, and he disappeared for about 3-4 months,” Surendran Chandramohan, David’s Singapore teammate who played alongside the 25-year-old in the World Cup qualifiers, tells Cricket.com.
“He came back four months later and he looked like a completely different player. He was vera level (next level). His game looked like it’d changed completely.”
The numbers validate what Surendran is saying. After playing Singapore’s last T20WC qualifier match against Namibia in October 2019, David smashed a stunning 32-ball 92* in his first match back, against Malaysia in March. He then followed the 92* up with another explosive 58 against Hong Kong, which came off just 46 balls. In between, he also played a couple of mini-cameos for the Scorchers in which he showcased his six-hitting ability.
The pandemic temporarily halted his surge, but in BBL 10 David showed the world that his rise was one ought to be taken seriously, as he endured a stunning breakthrough season where, representing the Hurricanes, he struck 279 runs at an SR of 153.29. Lahore Qalandars came calling after David’s breakthrough BBL season and the rest, as they say, is history.
But while the world was witness to David’s true potential only towards the end of 2020, Surendran says that he and all the other Singapore players knew that their 6’5 teammate was a special talent the first time they watched him bat in the nets.
“We could instantly sense that he (David) was in a class of his own. Some of his stroke-making (at the nets) was outrageous. He could literally play the pull-shot from anywhere and everywhere. And his fielding, too, was on a whole different level. We just knew that he was head and shoulders above the rest,” Surendran says, recalling the first time he watched David bat.
Surendran, over the years, has developed a great relationship with David, both on and off the field. They are good friends off the field but also have a striking chemistry on it, thriving in each other’s presence whilst batting together. The duo have stitched together countless valuable stands for Singapore, the most impressive of which came in 2019, where they put together a 90-run stand for the second wicket against a full-strength Zimbabwe side.
Funnily enough, however, David did not leave a good first impression on Surendran. The Tamil Nadu-born cricketer says that initially he would get irked by the name ‘Tim David’ due to the latter’s tendency to often be a no-show.
“I first heard of Tim in 2017. Every time there was a (Singapore) squad announcement, there would be this name ‘Tim David’. But he would never turn up due to his commitments back in Australia. I would get irked by just looking at his name since he would never show up to play.”
But the animosity was short-lived. Surendran says that he and his Singapore teammates were genuinely taken aback by David’s humility and kindness when he first joined the squad.
“It was only in 2019 that I finally met him in person. Me and a few of my teammates, prior to meeting him, thought he would be a scene party (an expression commonly used in Tamil Nadu, meaning ‘showoff’) due to already being an established figure on the Australian domestic circuit, but he turned out to be an extremely down-to-earth, fun character. He was just full of energy,” Surendran says.
David was only 23 the last time he played for Singapore, but he carried experience in abundance due to having spent years playing in Perth. Surendran says that, despite being one of the younger members in the squad, David, seven years his junior, was always keen on transferring knowledge to his teammates.
“What I like about him the most is that he does not hesitate to share what he knows about the game. He was just 23 years of age, but was always keen on imparting knowledge,” the 32-year-old says.
In a week’s time, though, there will be a role reversal of significant magnitude - David won’t be the one imparting knowledge anymore when he steps into the Royal Challengers Bangalore dressing room. It is a twist - a very good one, mind you - he could never have seen coming, but, eerily enough, the development was foreshadowed over text by Surendran, who spoke to David days after he landed a maiden CPL contract.
“I texted him a week before he landed his maiden IPL contract. I told him that he’d played in every league in the world but one and predicted him to be snapped up by an IPL franchise pretty soon. He asked me what franchise I wanted to see him play in, and I, rather light-heartedly, said that I would like to see him in RCB colours.”
In less than 7 days, Surendran’s prophetic words came true: RCB snapped up David as a replacement player for Finn Allen.
“I knew he would play in the IPL. I always knew,” Surendran says, while quipping that he called up David and asked him to keep an RCB jersey reserved as soon as he heard the news.
Surendran will get that jersey, but there is one other question for which David never gives him the answer he wants.
“Every time I speak to him, I keep asking one question: ‘Kohli or Smith?’ And every time, he has the same answer: Smith.”
Perhaps after the new venture that awaits him, David might finally have a change of mind.