Tyagi, swinging and soaring

Tyagi, swinging and soaring

Like many success stories, Kartik Tyagi’s too had its share of ups and downs and an impromptu beginning

Kartik Tyagi prepares to deliver a ball during the Semi-Final of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup between India and Pakistan at the Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on February 4. (AFP Photo)

India may have suffered a heart-breaking defeat in the final of the ICC Under-19 World Cup against Bangladesh a week ago, but during the course of the tournament some of the nation’s uncut gems shimmered in the glistening sunshine of South Africa. One among them was paceman Kartik Tyagi. “Kartik Tyagi’s swing terrorised opposing batsmen throughout the tournament,” is how the governing body described the 19-year-old Uttar Pradesh lad’s bowling after naming him in the World Cup Team of the Tournament.

The words “swing terrorised” are merely not hyperboles to hail the impressive Tyagi. Right throughout the showpiece event, the teenager, bowling consistently in late 130 kmphs and on many occasions even breaching the 140 clicks, troubled the batsmen with his superb seam position, movement and accurate yorkers. The video package of his superb 4/24 effort against Australia in the semifinals is a proof of his exceptional skills, some of which betrayed his age. Some experts wondered how he managed to have such fine control over seam and extracted swing on a consistent basis. And the ability to bowl yorkers at will which even senior pros struggle at times.

“I’m really happy that everyone is talking about me,” a delighted Tyagi, who bagged 11 wickets at a brilliant average of 13.90 at the Rainbow Nation, told DH over phone from his village Hapur. “I’m very disappointed that I couldn’t help India win the World Cup and it still hurts. But, barring the final, it has been a dream tournament for me. From almost missing out due to injuries and then ending up as one of the top performers is unbelievable. All I wanted was to represent India and I’m glad I could do so well.”

Like many success stories, Tyagi’s too had its share of ups and downs and an impromptu beginning. Averse to books and education from as little as six years of age, Tyagi’s daily trip to school was merely for entertainment. If he wasn’t bunking classes, then he would be up to some mischief, pulling out pranks on fellow students and even teachers. Tyagi didn’t care about exams too, choosing to spend time in movie halls instead. His father Yogendra began to worry as complaints from school started piling up. Yogendra’s worst fear was if his son too ended up becoming a farmer like him. Wondering what to do with his carefree son, Yogendra enrolled him — aged 11 then — at the City Vocational Cricket Academy in Meerut and that gamble has changed both their lives.

Glad that he didn’t have to attend classes, Tyagi happily hit the nets where famous names likes Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Praveen Kumar learnt the tricks of the trade. During the initial months, he didn’t know what he wanted to become before slowly finding his calling in fast bowling. As the cherry kept coming out faster and faster from his hand, Tyagi’s confidence and ambition kept growing, almost exponentially.

He impressed in age group tournaments, catching the eye of Praveen Kumar and even the selectors who handed him a first-class debut at a tender of 16. Bowling alongside Praveen Kumar in the Ranji Trophy game against Railways in October 2017, Tyagi impressed on debut, bagging 1/25 in 15 overs in the first innings and 2/15 in 10 overs in the second essay.

“The moment I saw Tyagi bowl, I knew this kid was special,” said his coach Vipin Vats. “I know it may sound as an exaggeration but it’s true. What I really like about the kid is his grasping power. Yes, he doesn’t like studies but has a superb cricketing brain. I just tell him once and sometimes show him videos of top fast bowlers and he instantly picks it up and executes them. As the saying goes ‘Practice makes a man perfect’, Tyagi’s fast rise is all because of the hours at the nets and steely determination.”

Along with batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, Tyagi has become the talk of the town but the UP lad almost missed the flight to South Africa owing to a succession of injuries that threatened to derail his rise. “During the warm-up session before my second Ranji Trophy game, I fractured my leg playing football. From then on I’ve been beset by one injury or the other. The moment I could recover, I would be laid low by another injury. In fact I was recovering from a stress fracture prior to the World Cup. I thought I may not make the squad but somehow I managed to pass the fitness test in the nick of time. I really thank the selectors for having faith in me. That’s why I was extra determined to succeed. Glad to have proven their faith in me.”

Tyagi, who hones his skills by watching videos of Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell Starc (his two favourite bowlers), is well aware of the spotlight that he has on him now and how many young stars have wilted in that strong luminosity.

“I’m an easy going kid and I take life also like that. My father and my coach keep me grounded. They keep reminding me everyday that this is just the start and there’s a very long road ahead. I’m totally aware of it. I’ve ticked one box, that’s the World Cup. The second one is the IPL which is coming up. Many lives have been made there and I really want to test my talent against some of the best batsmen in the world. Can’t wait to learn from some of the legends of the game. Thirdly, as any kid would say, the ultimate dream is to don the senior colours.”

If Tyagi keeps his head still and continues to make his talent talk, those dreams too can be accomplished.

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