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Waiting in the wings

Opening bat T. Suman has proved his credentials by piling up 1,000 runs this season in different grades of cricket. With the selectors in a mood for change, the future seems bright for this 18-year-old attacking cricketer.



FOR A SIX: T. Suman has a reason to be hopeful. — Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

THIS IS widely believed to be a season of hope for gifted, young cricketers like Tirumalasetti Suman, Anoop Pai, Nalin Reddy and R. A. Vishwanath. With Hyderabad selectors in a mood to bring in winds of change in the State team's campaign in the Ranji Trophy championship this season, there is an air of expectancy amongst the hopefuls.

They are not content being fringe players, but are determined to complement the chance that seems to be round the corner with some creditable performances. Anoop Pai was the highest scorer with 400-plus in the South Zone under-19 championship in Chennai recently while opener T. Suman piled up 1,000 runs this season in different grades of cricket and off-spinner Nalin Reddy emerged as the most successful bowler in the under-19 grade.

These young cricketers are buoyed by the fact that N. Shivlal Yadav, chairman of Hyderabad selection committee, has made it clear that quite a few members of the current Hyderabad Ranji squad are on trial including the openers A. Nandakishore and southpaw Daniel Manohar. There is a significant pointer that the opener's slot is up for grabs if the regulars fail to show the desired consistency.

This is good news for the six-foot athletically built T. Suman. For someone who represented India in the World Cup under-19 championship in New Zealand this January, this attacking batsman is one of the strongest contenders for a slot.

With age and talent on his side, it may not be too long before he gets the break. The Ranji debut of Ibrahim Khaleel against Mumbai in the season opener has conveyed the right signals for aspirants. Old-timers Nari Contractor and Dilip Vengsarkar witnessed his brilliant 88 out of the winning score of 155 for three for Rest of India after the Parthiv Patel-led West Zone was bowled out for 152 in the C.K.Nayudu Trophy in Mumbai Wankhede Stadium before the Under-19 World Cup.

This knock earned him a place in the Indian squad for the World Cup as the first stand-by. It is not often that we see young cricketers making optimum use of their height. A batsman with a fancy to go after the bowlers, Suman is bound to make a big impression if given the breaks at the right time, despite his not so-consistent performances in the Moin-ud-Dowla tournament in the beginning of the season.

One bad patch out of four innings cannot be deemed fit to pass judgment on his technical competence and ability to come up with big scores. He is fearless and failures do not tie him down. Suman loves to fight back from adversity. Suman's emergence has been slow and steady. His willingness to learn is impressive and was evident in the way he picked up the rudiments from his first `guru,' late Eddie Aibara. He demonstrated this with a double century in the under-13 grade. He was made the State under-16 captain also.

In fact, he has been leading Hyderabad under-19 for the last two years with a fair degree of success. That he lets his bat do the talking is obvious from the fact that in the four matches he played he is averaging 100-plus. The big question is whether the selectors will rise to the occasion and experiment with youngsters like Suman and Anoop Pai or will they continue to give preference to the quota system at the expense of quality players?

Suman says he is ready for the challenge. "Given the opportunity to play senior grade cricket, I will try my best and justify the faith reposed in me," the dashing batsman says. His record is proof of this for he was instrumental in South Zone winning the C. K. Nayudu Trophy (under-19) with crucial knocks of 54 and 43 against Central Zone under the captaincy of N. Arjun Yadav two years ago.

This 18-year-old batsman is also keen to set the record straight by converting his fifties into big hundreds as advised by former India captain and current chairman of the BCCI talent spotting committee, Dilip Vengsarkar.

And this is also what his mentors M. Ranga Reddy, BCCI vice-president and president of HCA and N. Shivlal Yadav look for from this talented cricketer. It will shatter the morale of youngsters like Suman if they are ignored when they are young and brimming with talent. Let genuine talent be given a fair chance even if it means an element of risk. After all, champions are not spotted from routine moves!

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

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