IPL 10: When KKR’s Gambhir fought for MI’s Nitish Rana – Rana made a decent 28-ball 34 at No. 4 in MI’s first game against the Rising Pune Supergiant, but MI coach Mahela Jayawardene knew the youngster was capable of doing much bigger things.
On Sunday, as Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir watched from the dugout Mumbai Indians’ Nitish Rana turning the tables on his team, there would’ve been a sense of familiarity for him.
Rana, the 23-year-old youngster from Delhi, has been Gambhir’s prodigy all along his growing cricketing career. The southpaw started playing serious cricket first in Gambhir’s club and made his fist-class debut for Delhi under Gambhir in the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy season, where the young lad scored 557 runs at an average of 50.63 to become Delhi’s highest scorer of the season.
And so mutual was the respect that Gambhir had a very public spat with Delhi coach KP Bhaskar during the Vijay Hazare Trophy last month, with one of the primary reasons being Bhaskar’s decision to drop Rana and Unmukt Chand from the team. Gambhir was big on backing youngsters in the team, and in Rana, he saw a talent worth backing.
But what Delhi didn’t do, Mumbai Indians did: back Rana.
Despite playing just four matches in the previous IPL season and coming into this one without a bagful of runs in the domestic T20 tournament – the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – the MI think-tank drafted him into the XI straightaway.
Rana made a decent 28-ball 34 at No. 4 in MI’s first game against the Rising Pune Supergiant, but MI coach Mahela Jayawardene knew the youngster was capable of doing much bigger things. He was thus sent in ahead of captain Rohit Sharma against KKR in a tricky 179-run target in front of a packed, vociferous home crowd.
Many an inexperienced batsman, thrown in in such situations, would’ve buckled under the immense weight of responsibility and expectations. But Rana, as Gambhir can vouch for, falls under the category of players who probably excel more in such scenarios.
And Rana did excel, keeping calm despite losing four wickets around him. He was the steadying influence in the storm for MI, and even when 49 were needed off 18 balls, Rana never gave up hope. He hit a four and a six in the 18th over, and another six and a four in the 19th to take MI within touching distance of the Knights before getting out in the quest of another big shot.
Rana couldn’t finish the job, but he did his job of anchoring the chase coming in at No. 3 and taking the game as deep as he could.
“Nitish has batted at No. 3 for us before (last year), so we knew what he was capable of. He is a very talented player and showed a lot of quality today (Sunday),” Jayawardene said on Sunday night. “Hopefully, he goes stronger in the tournament, and we can see more of that from him.”