Sai Sudharsan - The Quiet and Classy Batter Behind The Mega Effort In The 2023 IPL Final
Perhaps it can’t be argued any further that what makes the Indian Premier League exceedingly popular and a true test of nerves is the fact that many a youngster comes about, delivers a breakthrough and makes a name for himself in the mouthwatering franchise-based league.
That requires one to not only shoulder responsibility, and handle the pressure of expectations but rather importantly, emerge from the shadows of several names that are, clearly more popular than the younglings having already created an identity for themselves.
In the past editions, we saw that with the way Nicholas Pooran found himself going in a team that had the likes of Shikhar Dhawan; he’d eventually show his might with the new arrivals to the league, Lucknow Super Giants.
We’ve seen how a certain Rishabh Pant was picked by the then Delhi Daredevils ahead of the 2016 IPL season; in the seasons that followed, he’d emerge as the main smasher of the white ball for the team that eventually became Delhi Capitals.
Meanwhile, Shubman Gill, who began with Kolkata Knight Riders as a sparkly youngster was playing in the distinguished company of names like Russell, Gambhir and Narine. After some runs and some not-so-promising seasons, he’d emerge as a Titan with the bat for Gujarat Titans.
But this time around, one name that clearly shone brightly despite playing with both experienced campaigners, as well as young, on-the-rise talents, was a certain Sai Sudharsan.
Sudarshan featured in what was just a second IPL season and he’s already being talked about as a prospect that could make his way to the Indian dressing room at some point.
However, beyond the runs, there was a little disappointment that flew his way.
He might not have belonged to the winning side in the end, in the much-awaited, rain-interrupted mega final that was, technically speaking, completed on the third day since its original date.
He might not have even earned the prestigious player-of-the-match award despite scoring the most runs for his Gujarat Titans unit.
But well and truly speaking, Sai Sudharsan will, for times to come, be remembered as the daring lad who created an inning that was pulsating, highly watchable and beyond doubt, a top-of-the-drawer final game effort.
It’s a shame that the left-hander didn’t ultimately reach the century, which would’ve been special in that it would’ve been a first for the player in just the second season of the Indian Premier League.
But those 96 powerful runs were underlined by a sense of class and an element of sublime that cut it above the rest, shining eventually as the highest individual score in a final that Gujarat all but won.
However, don’t dwell on the smashing strike rate of 206, which, on its own, was captivating like few other things.
Also, don’t dwell on the fact that Sai Sudharsan didn’t hit- but hammered- six huge sixes on his own.
All of that was special but the true achievement of the avid IPL newcomer was the fact that he was making runs for a team that featured far more experienced campaigners.
The fact that David Miller didn’t have to come out to bat, that Pandya didn’t have to really put in a slogging cameo towards the end and that none other than Gill, given the blasting form he’d been in all along, didn’t produce the mega runs in the end simply because Sudharsan was on the go was evidence of the fact that Gujarat had truly found yet another talent that can now possibly go for the long run.
Though, be cautioned against misconception; 96 runs in the much awaited final weren’t the only occasion where the leftie rose to the occasion.
In the much important game against Mumbai Indians and previously, against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Sai Sudharsan was among the runs, scoring 43 and 47, respectively.
But way before his big IPL break came about, just how did the Chennai-born youngster come about and get noticed?
The year was 2021, a time when far away from the captivating and glittery world of the Indian Premier League where the likes of Pat Cummins and Virat Kohli were making heads turn, Sudharsan first featured in the T20 format of the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy.
Thanks to some consistent run-scoring, perhaps as the key tent of his game, Sudharsan was able to forge a space for himself.
But how so?
That season, he scored 358 runs from 8 innings but it was that ability to quickly change gears and score rapidly, amply evident in the season’s strike rate of 147 that marked his presence as a huge player in the making.
And while we can eschew needless verbiage and cosmological adjectives for there’s little sense to branding someone as huge who’s only just begun, the notable performances in Tamil Nadu in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy carved his path for a future IPL reckoning.
A few months down the road when he was first picked by Gujarat Titans in 2022, Sudharsan saw that as an opportunity to prove his worth at a stage where cricketers of international repute compete for the ultimate honours in franchise-based T20 cricket.
He didn’t waste anytime in announcing his intentions; he’d score 165 from only five games. This included a fifty.
And finally, one saw the man behind elegant strokes and a touch of fine timing making the most of a proper full-fledged IPL season.
It’s one thing to score the most runs in the all-exciting final but something quite other to trump several huge names that have more experience to their credit.
The way Sudharsan has gone about handling pressure offers a glimpse into his mindset.
The way he tore apart Pathirana towards the death overs, collecting 19 runs off just five deliveries amid huge pressure was stuff you’d consider classy.
But it must be noted that he’s still blooming. There’s so much that the 21-year-old is yet to see any evidence; the ebbs and flows of cricket that are often doused in despair and highs.
There’s still a long way to go. Though, there’s huge faith in the redoubtable abilities of the southpaw.
Now that he’s begun well, he must make it count. May the future belong to Sai Sudharsan and all such youngsters who make the most of what life affords them.