T Natarajan earned his maiden ODI cap and made his debut for India in the final game of the three-match series at Canberra. Natarajan, selected in the squad on the back of his impressive performances in the recent IPL edition, justified his selection by taking two wickets including the prized scalp of Marnus Labuschagne.
Though he conceded 70 runs in his ten overs, Indian bowling unit -- led by Shardul Thakur's three-fer and Jasprit Bumrah's experience at the death -- restricted Australia to 289 runs. India were able to redeem themselves in the final ODI as they registered a 13-run victory at Canberra. Batting first, India were able to post 302 runs on the board after the Hardik Pandya-Ravindra Jadeja duo stitched a record 150-run stand for the sixth wicket.
It was a 'dream-come-true' moment for Natarajan, who paved his way to the biggest level from humble beginnings. Starting his bowling journey with tennis ball cricket, Natarajan delivered impressive performances in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) and earned a bid from Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
The Punjab franchise had bought him for INR 3 crore back in 2017 but after playing just six games for the franchise, the left-armer shifted his base to SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) a year later. After waiting for a couple of seasons, Natarajan was ultimately rewarded with a breakthrough season in 2020 where he scalped 16 wickets in 16 games. The 29-year-old stepped up for the Hyderabad outfit after their experienced pacer, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was ruled out of the tournament.
Recalling Natarajan's ineffective stint with KXIP, former India opener Virender Sehwag said that everyone was sceptical over the buy as the pacer had the experience of playing only in the TNPL.
“I was very happy because when I had picked Natarajan in the IPL for the Kings XI Punjab, everyone was asking questions that this player has come who has not even played domestic cricket and came after playing just the TNPL league, so how he was picked at such a huge price,” Sehwag told Sony Sports Network.
Despite Natarajan lacking in experience, Sehwag, who was KXIP's head of cricket operations then, believed that he was a handy 'death bowler. Natarajan's journey with the Punjab outfit, however, came to an end after just six games where he added two wickets to his name.
“I saw his videos and then decided that we will surely take him at the auction because we did not have a death bowler. Unfortunately, that year, he had an injury to the elbow or the knee because of which he could not play too many matches. But we won only the matches that he played in and lost all the other matches," recalled Sehwag.
Sehwag also passed on wishes to Natarajan saying, "I was thinking that he would be given a chance in the T20Is but it was a surprise for me that he was played in the ODIs. But whatever happened was good. All the best to T Natarajan. I hope that he keeps on doing well from here and makes his place in the Indian team."