Mavi hits the ground running in international cricket

Mavi finished with excellent figures of 4/22 on debut.
Mavi finished with excellent figures of 4/22 on debut. ©BCCI

In April last year, Shivam Mavi was taken to the cleaners by Bhanuka Rajapaksa at the Wankhede in Mumbai in his very first over of a game. The Sri Lankan batter, then representing Punjab Kings, smashed him for a four and three consecutive sixes, milking 22 runs off the first five balls. Off the sixth he had him caught.

On Tuesday night, Rajapaksa's Sri Lankan teammate Dhananjay de Silva whacked him for consecutive boundaries at that very ground. He had him caught off the next ball. Prior to that, Mavi rattled the stumps of Pathun Nissanka for his first international wicket after getting clubbed for a couple of boundaries by Kusal Mendis.

When Sri Lanka were menacingly running away with the game with a late surge through Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga, he answered the captain's call and gave India the breakthrough. That was much-needed and India stamped their authority on the opposition in the game. One more scalp in his fourth over and India gained the upper hand in the first T20 International match. That the game went for a last-ball finish was not Mavi's fault. His four for 22 in four overs was a blockbuster showing on debut. He has hit the ground running in international cricket.

"He never gives up," says Venky Mysore, the CEO of Kolkata Knight Riders, recalling that over in the IPL game last April. Mysore had picked a raw Mavi after India's 2018 Under 19 World Cup triumph and had him mature into a quality pacer under coaches Abhishek Nayar and Omkar Salvi who worked with him for five years at KKR and the franchise Academy in Kolkata. "Whenever he had time, he would come to our academy and work tirelessly under Nayar and Salvi," Mysore says.

"I was waiting for six years after playing U 19. I had to work hard in those six years -- got injured as well. For a while it looked like my dream will remain a dream. But I kept at it. Having played the IPL, the nervousness is a little less," Mavi told the host broadcaster after the game.

As a cricketer, Mavi comes across as a determined and intransigent player with an attitude to fight. Discipline is his forte and he would clock 140 on the speed gun consistently, moving the ball both ways. One of Tuesday's wickets was a delivery that was pitched up and moved in at high speed. He would later say it was the best of his four scalps.

"He is a very disciplined player with great work ethics," certifies Nayar, a former India and Mumbai all-rounder. "His strength is his ability to handle pressure. He has played a lot of T20 cricket and he is very well-prepared now. It is a call (India debut) that he obviously deserves."

Nayar feels Mavi has a knack for getting big batsmen at crucial stages. It was evident the way he removed Hasaranga when Sri Lanka were 108 for five in the 15th over. Sri Lanka needed just about 10 runs an over in the last five. They lost by two runs.

"He performed consistently and got us some big batsmen at KKR," recalls Nayar. "He is someone who can clock 140 plus KMPH and has the ability to bowl a good yorker. He is an unbelievable fielder and I think he is a great package. I am happy that he got his opportunity to play for India," Nayar further says.

Bharat Arun, the assistant coach of Knight Riders is really impressed with Mavi. "He has got the pace that is important. He can execute the plans very well and is a very skiddy customer, who also has a good bouncer. It is a well-deserved debut and I see him as an exciting prospect for the country," the former India bowling coach tells Cricbuzz.

At the recent auction, Mavi was picked by Gujarat Titans but Mysore still thinks of the 24-year-old UP pacer as their own. "He has been with us through thick and thin, and our best wishes are with him."

Mysore picked him along with Shubman Gill and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, both Under 19 World Cup stars, in the 2018 auction. Nagarkoti's career has been marred by injuries but Gill has already established himself as a star. After the Tuesday night show, Mavi too could well be on way to stardom.