The cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) has helped bring up several young talents ever since its inaugural season in 2008. The 2017 edition was no different as it witnessed the rise of one such exciting pace-bowling talent in Basil Thampi.
Gujarat Lions, the now-defunct franchise had a disappointing end to their IPL stint, but Thampi's Emerging Player Award-winning performance was one of the few positives for them last season.
The Kerala pacer, well-backed by Suresh Raina, showed a lot of promise and went on to play 12 of the team's 14 matches. He ended the season with an impressive tally of 11 wickets, one behind their highest wicket-taker Andrew Tye.
Thampi displayed the quintessential qualities of a pacer — he bowled fast and consistently troubled opposition batsmen with his toe-crushers. In fact, the 24-year-old bowled 23 yorkers in the season. Only Sri Lanka great Lasith Malinga had bowled more.
With the exposure of having spent time at the Indian dressing room, Thampi is gearing up for a new challenge in the ongoing IPL season as he will turn up for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
Thampi's eye-catching performances deservedly earned him an India call-up for the T20I series against Sri Lanka last year. He also toured South Africa as Team India's net bowler and was a prominent figure in Rahul Dravid-coach India A team during New Zealand A tour between September and October.
'It's a proud moment for me'
Thampi couldn't have asked for anything better as he will be sharing the dressing room with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The man from Kerala, who is looking set for big things, says he is excited and proud to have a chance of working with the pace-bowling spearhead of the India cricket team.
"It's a proud moment for me. I had a net session with him [Bhuvneshwar] during the South Africa tour. I got the opportunity to bowl with him and share the practice sessions with him. That gave me good motivation," Thampi told International Business Times, India on the eve of SRH's opening match against Rajasthan Royals in Hyderabad.
"He knows how to bowl to the field. We shared information about how to bowl to specific batsmen and the timing of yorkers and slower ones. He gave me a lot of good, good ideas," he added.
"He has been telling me to believe in my strength and that he will be there on the ground to help me with field placements and other things."
Not many international batsmen had seen Thampi when he arrived on the IPL scene last year. His first scalp was the West Indies big-hitter Chris Gayle, who was peppered with toe-crushers. However, he is no more the new kid on the block and will be representing the Sunrisers sans the unfamiliarity that surrounded him last season.
Thampi acknowledges the situation. The young pacer though is keen on picking the brains of his fellow pacers in the variety-rich bowling armory of the Sunrisers.
The Youngsters have come guns blazing to leave our opponents bowled with their pace and swing this #IPL2018.— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) April 5, 2018
Buy your tickets and catch them in action: https://t.co/pgO32kxLD4 #OrangeArmy @sidkaul22 #BasilThampi @imK_Ahmed @sandeep25a #Natarajan pic.twitter.com/CphYlGCmCp
Ready to 'bluff batsmen': Thampi
"Last year, I did well. This year everyone knows about me, they know my strengths but I want to keep on believing in my strength this season," Thampi said.
He added: "Regardless of anything else if you bowl yorkers, batsmen find it difficult to hit. Everyone knows that. Even if it's predictable, if you get it right, it's difficult to hit.
"Sometimes, you have to mix up. If the yorkers are not going well, you have to mix it up with slower balls. So my back-up ball this year is the "slower one". Along with the yorker, I want to bluff batsmen with the slower ones.
"We have a very strong bunch of fast bowlers. It gives us space to discuss everyone's plan with each other. We are getting new, new ideas. We are all different kind of bowlers. We have two left-hand pace bowlers [T Natarajan and Khaleel Ahmed], which is the natural variation we are getting.
"Bhuvi bhai (Bhuvneshwar) can bowl everywhere. Sandy [Sandeep Sharma] and Siddharth Kaul are also there. We all want to win matches for SRH."