Mumbai: Ayush Badoni, who? That was what the spectators in the Wankhede Stadium and vast majority sitting in front of their television screens were thinking as the 22-year-old batter strode into the middle in the match against Gujarat Titans with his team Lucknow Super Giants struggling 29/4 in the fifth over.
After skipper K.L Rahul got out for a golden duck off Mohammad Shami, Lucknow lost three more wickets in quick succession and with Deepak Hooda the only recognised batter in the middle. So, when debutant Badoni walked in ahead of the more experienced Krunal Pandya, who has represented the country in white-ball cricket.
For the discerning fans who checked the stats, they found that Badoni had before this match played five matches in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Delhi with very little to show against his name.
But the 22-year-old did not disappoint his team as he started cautiously and then blasted some big shots to score 54 on his debut and shared an 87-run partnership with Deepak Hooda (55) that helped Lucknow Super Giants reach 158/6 in 20 overs.
Though his exploits surprised many, the former India under-19 batsman looked confident about his abilities and did not get bogged down by the occasion.
Asked whether he had planned to reach his first half-century in IPL with a six, Badoni said he was actually not aware of the approaching milestone. “I was concentrating on my innings and was not aware of the approaching fifty. I realised it only after reaching the milestone,” said Badoni who was hugged by Krunal Pandya after he completed his fifty.
Asked how he felt on his debut, Badoni said he was very nervous on the previous night and could not sleep.
“I couldn’t sleep yesterday night thinking about my debut, but after I hit my first boundary tonight, I realised that I belong here and started getting into my own,” Badoni told the official broadcaster in the mid-innings break on Monday.
While Badoni’s ability to hit big shots might have come as a surprise to all those watching him on national television for the first time, the Lucknow Super Giants management, especially their mentor Gautam Gambhir, looked very confident as the youngster went about his job.
The 22-year-old Dehradun-born batter, who plays age-group cricket for Delhi, is known for his aggressive batting and tremendous hitting and had once blasted four sixes off four deliveries against Sri Lanka in an U-19 Asia Cup match in 2018. He is coached by senior coach Tarak Sinha and studied at Modern School, Barakhamba Road.
He had scored 187 not out in a league match against Sri Lanka U-19 and in final, blasted an unbeaten 52 off 28 balls to help India win the title. His four sixed off four deliveries came during this knock.
Now with a fifty on his IPL debut, Badoni has served notice to all to keep an eye on his exploits in the next few years. He will be a big gain for Indian cricket from IPL 2022 if he manages to consistently produce such innings.