Young ace in pace battery

Cricket

When Brett Lee, considered one of the finest pace bowlers, compliments a fellow quick, one can’t help but take notice.

During the recently-concluded Indian Premier League, Lee had identified one talent and touted him as the ‘future of Indian bowling’. The Aussie was referring to Shivam Mavi.

The Noida lad came into limelight during India’s victorious under-19 campaign during which he consistently hit the 140 kmph mark and even troubled the Australians, who were more than familiar with the home conditions.

His talent didn’t go unnoticed and Kolkata Knight Riders snapped up the youngster for a whopping Rs 3 crore.

Not many, however, know that bowling wasn’t his area of interest. During his younger days at the Wanderers Cricket Club in Noida, he preferred to wield the willow rather than hurl the cherry.

“I started out as a batsman,” Mavi said. “I used to go one-down and bowling wasn’t something for me. It was just something I would do in the ‘nets’. It was my coach (Phoolchand Sharma) who watched me bowl and advised me to do it more often. As I kept bowling, I kept getting better and that is how it all started.”

Mavi revealed that despite all his focus being on bowling now, he does enjoy it every time he gets to have a bat, especially considering that he bats lower down the order and has the license to go for it.  

“Of course, I still enjoy batting. Nowadays when I go out to bat, it is at a time when I can really hit the ball and that is fun.”

Coming back to Lee’s comments, it could be a real burden for a teenager to bear such a tag, but Mavi takes the praise in a pragmatic manner, saying: “No, I don’t consider it as an added pressure. When individuals make positive comments about me, I feel good. But it also teaches me that I will only have to work that much harder on minimising my weaknesses. I may bowl at a good pace, but what I ensure always is my line and length are maintained.” 

Having a good mentor in the competitive world of cricket is an absolute necessity, and Mavi couldn’t have asked for a more ideal person to learn from than former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid.

Dravid executed the role of head coach when the under-19 team traveled to the World Cup and apart from winning the biennial event, how he developed his wards was seen from their consistent performances at the domestic level and in the IPL.

Mavi was among the many that learnt from the legend and attributes the process as something he could utilise to take his game up a notch.   

“After coming through the under-19 ranks, I got a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot,” he began. “I have got the opportunity to learn from legends like Dravid sir, so the quicker I learn, the better it is for me. The only thing is that I lack experience and that is something I look to gain from the seniors I play with,” observed the 19-year-old. 

The IPL isn’t the easiest of settings for a youngster who is not used to the packed stadiums, the glitz and glamour. Mavi’s was a baptism by fire as KKR lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad early on in the tournament. Being used as only the sixth bowler wouldn’t have done much to boost the speedster. He conceded 10 runs from the only over he bowled and could have well found the IPL to be a lonely place.

Not one to buckle down, his fighting spirit was at its best in the very next game as he castled Delhi Daredevils skipper Gautam Gambhir in his side’s 71-run victory.

Mavi went on to play nine games picking five wickets at an average of 54 and an economy rate of just under 10. Not ideal statistics but he insists that it is the experience and valuable feedback that actually count.

“It was good outing for me, but tough at the same time. One thing with the IPL is that the margin for error is very narrow. Sometimes it becomes difficult to focus as well.

“That is when I talk to all my seniors and try to find ways on how to tackle pressure in tough situations.” 

“I used to speak with coach Jacques Kallis about all around skills, batting and bowling. Then there was also Heath Streak who would help with my morale, like giving me tips on how I must react after being hit for back-to-back boundaries, and what should be done.” 

In his nascent career, one of India’s brightest prospects has been plagued by injuries but has bounced back each time.  “Whenever I am injured, I feel it is very important to keep emotions in check as negative thoughts creep into one’s mind and you tend be demoralised. But the key is to just focus on the process of recovery and everything else will fall in place.”

Fitness permitting, with a smooth action and pace at his disposal, this 5’9’’ teenager could just be the next big thing in India’s pace battery.

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