After Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer, who were expected to lead the Mumbai Indians bowling this season, were sidelined with injuries, Akash Madhwal stepped up with his own set of extraordinary performances and was instantly likened as a timely replacement.
Madhwal picked a sensational five-wicket haul (5-5) and helped Mumbai Indians thrash Lucknow Super Giants by 81 runs in the eliminator and move into Qualifier 2 of IPL 2023 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday. He had guided Mumbai Indians to the Playoffs with a four-wicket haul in the must-win last league encounter with Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede a couple of days ago.
While Bumrah was ruled out of the IPL 2023 ahead of the tournament due to his back issue, Archer returned home mid-way owing to an elbow injury.
When linked as a replacement for the experienced bowlers, Madhwal played down the comparison and said: "I am trying my best to fulfil the responsibilities given to me by the team. I am not Bumrah's replacement but I'm trying my best to do what I can," Madhwal said in the post-match presentation after Mumbai Indians registered a 81-run victory against LSG on Wednesday night.
The pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai hasn't been kind to pacers but Madhwal managed to rubberstamp his authority on it.
"The wicket at Chepauk was good. As you saw, the ball was not gripping but skidding. I am a swing/sling bowler, and I pitched my deliveries in hard lengths aiming for wickets," Madhwal said.
Madhwal, who was signed as a replacement for injured Suryakumar Yadav in 2022, came close to making his MI debut last year. But despite being unused, he kept training with the team and his efforts earned him a retention for the 2023 campaign.
Speaking of opportunities and how he managed to get retained by MI, the 29-year-old pacer said: "I was given the clarity of my role with the team. I have to continue the process I was following and had the surety that I would get opportunities next season. That w"s very clear."
Madhwal ventured into professional cricket only five years ago before that he used to play tennis-ball cricket in his home state of Uttarakhand.
Asked what tactics from tennis-ball cricket he implements while bowling with a proper cricket ball in T20 cricket, he said: "Through the tennis ball, I have only learnt how to bowl yorkers and I use that in my bowling today. There is only one way of evading those deliveries.
"If the bowling lengths are pitched a bit high or low, it would gift away boundary -- four or six. Thus, I needed to bowl strong yorkers in tennis cricket and that is what I do today with a proper cricket ball."
Talking about his meteoric rise, Madhwal said: "I have been with Uttarakhand Cricket Association ever since they got affiliation with the BCCI in 2018. In 2019, I was a net bowler with Royal Challengers Bangalore. Later on, I joined Mumbai Indians and started out as a net bowler again. Fast forward to today, I am getting the opportunity to play in the team."
Mumbai Indians will next meet Gujarat Titans in Qualifier 2 on May 26 for a place in the final against Chennai Super Kings.
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