"We identified him as one of the promising talents who can play for the national team for many years," India captain Rohit Sharma said while talking about Washington Sundar's contribution to the Men in Blue's T20I tri-series win in Sri Lanka in March 2018.
At 18, Sundar has managed the capture the imagination of cricket fans in the country. "Find of the tour" and "biggest gain" for India are some of the praises coming his way from eminent personalities in the cricket fraternity after his series-winning performances with the ball in the just-concluded Nidahas Trophy.
Sundar became only the third bowler after Rashid Khan and Shadab Khan to win a Man of the Series award in T20Is before the age of 20. With eight wickets at a miserly rate of 5.70 despite bowling in the powerplays of five matches, he has certainly shown the world he belongs to the highest level.
The teen from Triplicane, Chennai, rose to prominence during his stint with the India team at the U-19 World Cup in 2016. He had grabbed quite a few eyeballs with his not-so-common first name but went on to be known for his tidy bowling spells, including a 9-1-18-0 in the final against the West Indies.
Disciplined off-spinner, elegant left-handed batsman
Sundar had started out as a batsman. He began formal training at the age of 10 with the help of his father M Sundar, himself a first-division cricketer. The left-handed batsman's technique was modeled around former Tamil Nadu cricketer WV Raman, according to Firstpost.
However, the senior Sundar recognized the need to develop his son into an all-rounder early and the duo began working on the boy's bowling skills. Soon after, he was able to bowl off-spin, leg-spin, medium pace and even keep wickets.
Exposure to some highly-competitive cricket in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) league helped Sundar mold himself into a cricketer with a calm head on his shoulders.
He played for Globe Trotters in the TNCA first-division league when he was just 13. Trotters' coach M Senthilnathan, another former Tamil Nadu cricketer, had no hesitations in slotting him into the playing XI after witnessing his exploits at the MRF Pace Foundation nets in Chennai.
Sundar was 16 when he made it to the India U-19 World Cup in 2016. The six-foot-tall all-rounder earned his berth in the Rahul Dravid-coached side after an array of impressive performances for the India U-19 team in the tri-nation series the next year.
The Tamil Nadu teen top-scored with 96 runs, including a half-century, in his first-ever series for India U-19 — a tri-series involving Bangladesh and Afghanistan in Kolkata.
The all-rounder further proved his ability with the bat when he hit a series-winning half-century while opening the batting against Sri Lanka U-19 in Colombo the month after the tri-series.
Sundar overcomes disappointment, makes heads turn in IPL 2017
The year 2017 turned out to be one of the best cricket seasons in Sundar's nascent cricket career. He became the youngest cricketer — at 17 — to feature in an Indian Premier League (IPL) final when he represented the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant in the 10th edition of the cash-rich league.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder, who was signed as a last-minute replacement for R Ashwin, went on to become Steve Smith's go-to man in the tournament. The youngster was trusted with the responsibility of bowling in power plays, a role that brought out the best in him.
In the qualifier against the MI, Sundar bowled a match-winning spell, conceding only 16 runs and picking up three crucial wickets of Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, and Ambati Rayudu.
However, Sundar faced disappointment early in the year as he was dropped from Tamil Nadu's Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament squad following an underwhelming maiden Ranji Trophy season.
The youngster was able to take the disappointment in his stride and come back stronger. He went on to play a crucial role in Tamil Nadu's title-winning campaigns in Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy, which eventually led to his IPL call-up.
In Tamil Nadu Premier League 2017, the intra-state T20 tournament, Sundar the batsman made heads turn with his consistent performances at the top of the order. Opening the batting for Tuti Patriots, he smashed 459 runs — including a century — in nine matches.
The maiden India call-up followed Sundar in December 2017 when he was selected to be a part of India's 15-member squad for the T20I series against Sri Lanka at home.
However, Sundar made his India debut in the 50-over format days before the T20I series as he was drafted into the squad for the second ODI of a three-match series against the Islanders. He went on to play one of the three T20Is.
Sundar gears up for RCB stint
Expectations from Sundar have risen after an array of series-winning performances in the Nidahas Trophy even as he is gearing up for his second IPL season.
The teen, who was signed as a replacement last edition, fetched Rs 3.2 crore as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) successfully won a bidding war for him during the IPL auction in January.
At 18, not many have the opportunity to share dressing rooms with the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Sundar couldn't have asked for anything better. It's now up to him to make the opportunity count and make himself an indispensable part of the Men in Blue.
Washington Sundar Fact File
- Full name: Washington Sundar
- Date of birth: October 5, 1999
- Place of birth: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Citizenship: Indian
- Residence: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
- Major teams represented: India, India U-19, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rising Pune Supergiant, Tuti Patriots.