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Nitish Kumar Reddy – a beacon of hope for Indian cricket
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Nitish Kumar Reddy – a beacon of hope for Indian cricket

Not that he has been the only run-scorer among all-rounders, but Nitish has also shown a lot of promise with his bowling, more than his counterparts, despite not being used to his strengths.

Some things are rare, some very rare. Then the bowling all-rounders are coming into the Indian circuit at a high pace.

It’s not that there aren’t options available; In India, there are a few spread across various IPL teams. Shivam Dube, Venkatesh Iyer and Vijay Shankar have been involved in the setup for a while now. But who even comes close to what Hardik Pandya has to offer? No.

That Hardik alone offers value in both aspects is enough to get anyone excited when a novice in this category arrives on the IPL stage. That’s why Nitish Kumar Reddy immediately took the spotlight during IPL 2024. Not that he has been the only run-scorer among all-rounders, but Nitish has also shown a lot of promise with his bowling, more so than his counterparts, despite the fact that according to him is not used. to its strengths.

Let’s start with the hitting part. Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), a team full of serial boundary hitters, were tottering at 39/3 and soon changed to 66/4 in the 10th over, against Punjab Kings (PBKS) in Mullanpur. Nitish, playing only his second IPL innings, targeted his bowlers precisely to take SRH to a fighting 182/9, which ultimately proved enough. After a slow start, he accelerated brilliantly and smashed 50 runs in his last 19 deliveries, including three boundaries and five maximums.

His best IPL score came against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in a tough Hyderabad deck. SRH lost two quick wickets again, and Travis Head struggled to speak fluently. Nitish assessed the situation and took an aggressive route, racing away to a 30-ball fifty and remaining unbeaten on 76(42) to propel his team to 201/3, which again proved just enough for SRH.

Nitish showed caution under pressure anyway, like Hardik Pandya with the willow. Hardik has often saved India by stopping collapses or attacking to shift the pressure on the opponent. His fifty counter-attacks against Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final and a 40-run knock while at 31/4 against the same opponent in the 2022 T20 World Cup are just a few.

Nitish in both fifties presented different batting equipment and wisdom to target his prey. In both games, the sears were working at full strength, so Reddy took out the spinners and paced his innings beautifully. His knock gave Travis Head breathing space in the RR game, who laid the foundation for the takeover of Heinrich Klaasen.

Also read: T20 World Cup 2024: Making sense of Rinku Singh’s omission

Now the bowling part is arguably more important than the batting as it is an area in which not many Indian all-rounders grow. At first glance, Nitish’s bowling figures show three wickets at 46.66 runs each. From a statistical point of view it may seem quite average, but his modus operandi was impressive at times.

His lengths have been quite predictable as Reddy has taken all three wickets through short deliveries. His ability to learn and adapt is intriguing as that is not his natural height as a bowler. For now, Nitish is a new-ball bowler who can swing the cherry with his leisurely pace.

His speeds hover around 130 kmph, making him an ideal bowler for the powerplay. But SRH have a powerplay maestro in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, while Pat Cummins is also more incisive at this stage. Then, teams also have a few overs reserved for matchup purposes.

It has tempted Nitish to bowl in the middle overs when the ball has taken a good beating and has nothing left to exploit anything in the air. Yet he has cleverly gotten out of his comfort zone and shortened his work to make himself more employable. In a season where batters have been determined to be aggressive, Nitish has shown plenty of glimpses of brilliance in a brand new role.

He doesn’t have the pace like Hardik Pandya, who can reach a speed of 140 kmph, but with good usage he can get the best out of Nitish, the bowler. He averages 22.96 in First Class cricket, indicating he is more than a handy seamer. Even teams use Hardik early in the innings to get the most out of him even though he is a decent middle-overs enforcer, so Nitish should also be given the same freedom, at least at this stage of his career.

When talking about Hardik Pandya’s place in the Indian side, the selectors have a weak spot considering the balance he provides. He has not been at his best in T20s but will be selected for the upcoming T20 World Cup based on his all-round skills that no other player in the country offers. It is quite a temptation to continue with Hardik, regardless of his form.

When Hardik Pandya injured himself during the 2023 World Cup, India had to bring in two players – Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammed Shami – to balance the eleven. That is the value of Hardik. In short, he is irreplaceable.

In Pandya’s absence, the Indian team management has tried several options such as Venkatesh Iyer and Shivam Dube in a bid to find an alternative to Hardik. Vijay Shankar and Shardul Thakur have also received superior treatment. If we are honest, none of them are/were masters even in one department to be part of the national team, with the exception of Dube, who has only improved as a batsman over the past year.

It’s just that as a secondary skill they can do a bit of hitting or rolling on their arms. So despite giving low returns in both facets, they were preferred over specialists to balance the XI as international cricket does not offer an impact player. But no one could even come close to Hardik’s abilities.

For some reason, India have also favored more good players in white-ball cricket rather than specialists, tempting them to try more all-rounders. Take Shardul Thakur for example. India went for him in the early stages of the World Cup last year over Mohammed Shami, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.

Hardik had to get injured to get the specialists of Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammed Shami over Shardul, who is neither a 10-over bowler nor more than a No. 8 batsman. When Venkatesh Iyer did well in the second half of IPL 2021, India immediately included him in white-ball assignments, including an away ODI series against South Africa. It also shows desperation to find more options in the all-rounder department.

Hardik is prone to injuries. His injuries have already proven costly during the 2021 T20 World Cup and 2023 World Cup, so India cannot relax when he is fit.

Nitish may look like another option like Venkatesh or Shivam, but this IPL has shown that he has immense potential and a solid base to develop as an all-rounder. Like Hardik, Reddy is also a better batsman than a bowler at the nascent stage of his career. Even Hardik went all out with the ball at this stage.

Venkatesh Iyer, Shivam Dube and Vijay Shankar have hardly bowled for their respective IPL franchises, showing a lack of confidence in their bowling skills. Obviously the Impact Player rule has reduced their role, but it’s not as if SRH have no options or haven’t used an extra bowler. Despite having many bowlers, Pat Cummins has consistently given bowling options to Nitish Reddy.

It is because Nitish has shown the ability to adapt as a bowler by bowling hard lengths and varying lines depending on the field placements. That dismissal of Tristan Stubbs, with Nitish forcing him to hit straight at the fielder at deep midwicket, shows his bowling smarts. At least he can bowl according to his pitches in a brutal T20 tournament.

In the five bowling innings this edition, Nitish has bowled two or more overs three times. In two of them he gave up eight or fewer points. In two games in which he threw just one throw, he gave up 8 and 12 runs.

All this when Nitish has not bowled the new ball. It is also worth noting that Nitish was initially a pure batsman, who never took his bowling seriously. All the growth he has made as a bowler has mainly happened in the last four years.

It confirms that Nitish is a fast learner. From the looks of it, Nitish might be an even better all-rounder in the 50-plus format. A middle-order batsman with new-ball value is always an exciting prospect.

Nitish, 20, also has age on his side. It has a nice start and smooth action. And with some work, his pace can also increase slightly, making him more deadly. Needless to say, he will only improve from here on out.

Ideally, India should stop looking for another Hardik Pandya. It’s impossible to find one. They are better off investing in players with even half-capabilities, and Nitish Kumar Reddy is certainly close enough, even if he is not fully baked yet.

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