Filling in the huge void left by Ravichandran Ashwin was never going to be easy for any spinner in the world let alone an 17-year old rookie who was yet to play at a big stage like the Indian Premier League or senior international cricket. However, Washington Sundar has been an exception.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder, who bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-spin, was called in for trials by Rising Pune Supergiant before the start of the season along with Parvez Rasool who had already represented India. What made his task even tougher was that he had to prove his mettle against the likes of Supergiant captain Steve Smith and IPL’s highest-paid foreign player Ben Stokes. But the teenager came out with flying colours and has gone on to justify the team’s decision to pick him as the injured Ashwin’s replacement by doing really well in the ongoing season.
In seven matches so far, he has managed to pick up just 4 wickets but he has made up for it with his economy-rate of just 7. Considering the fact that he has been used in tandem to bowl the powerplay overs, his economy-rate is exceptional for an inexperienced bowler. And now that he has grown more confident, the youngster is trying to add more weapons to his armoury and one such weapon is the carrom ball.
“I am trying out the carrom ball at the nets. There are times when I am able to bowl it properly. Will bowl it in a match when I have perfected it,” Sundar told The Hindu.
Sundar admitted that he was under pressure after being told that he was going to make his IPL debut against Sunrisers Hyderabad but said it all disappeared once he set foot on the ground.
“There was pressure in the beginning but all that disappeared once I entered the ground. I wanted to enjoy the game, the crowd, the atmosphere, wanted to give my best. I play hard but basically, I am a pretty chilled out person,” he recalled.
He further said that the likes of MS Dhoni and Steve Smith encouraged him every now and then before revealing his game plan.
“Dhoni sir would come to me and suggest changes in the field. He would encourage me. Smith would have a word with me from time to time. Travelling with a team that has so many fantastic players has been a great experience. Then I have bowled to men such as McCullum and Warner,” Sundar said.
“I have a game-plan against each batsman, watch their videos. If I bowl to my plan, I know I can pull it off,” he added.
He also revealed that he did not take his bowling seriously in the early phase of his career before his father M. Sundar and his mentor and former Tamil Nadu batsman M. Senthilnathan urged him to focus more on his off-spins.
“I did not take my bowling seriously earlier. But it was Senthil sir and my father asked me to focus more on my bowling,” said the bowler who loves listening to AR Rahman songs to relax off the field.