Nitish Rana's red-hot form is working for Mumbai Indians' advantage © BCCI
Nitish Rana’s red-hot form is working for Mumbai Indians’ advantage © BCCI

In March, far away from the intense battle which was unfolding between India and Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, a cricketer, known for his hard-nosed cricket and no-nonsense attitude, the one who had represented India not long ago, ripped apart his state team’s coach. News that surfaced from the Delhi camp about Gautam Gambhir giving a mouthful to the head coach KP Bhaskar were only one-sided, but it did take the Indian cricket fraternity by surprise. Gambhir is well-known for his aggression, but to take down a coach in a manner he did was shocking.

Gambhir kept his foot down and took the matters with the Delhi coach when he felt young cricketers in the team were not being fairly treated. India’s Under-19 World Cup winning captain from the 2012 edition in Australia was one among them. Chand had even played the IPL, but there was one more cricketer who was not as famous. Indeed, Nitish Rana had played exactly one innings of significance last IPL, but Gambhir had seen more in him than the others, and hence, he could be justified to have tore into his state team coach.

“I was mentally disturbed at that time. I was unable to enjoy my game and I went into a shell. I think the environment made a lot of difference when I came to Mumbai. There are some big names in my camp like Sachin sir, Mahela Jayawardene and Rohit bhai (Sharma). When I got out early during my last Ranji Trophy match, I spoke to Gautam bhaiya (Gambhir) at length. He cleared my mind and explained to me what the problem was. He knows me very well from the past 10-12 years as we both played for the same club. When I came to Mumbai, Mahela and Sachin sir told me the same things what Gautam said to me. I tried to do whatever they said and played accordingly. Luckily, it worked for me,” Rana was quoted as saying by Mid-Day.

The thousands of cricket fans who have thronged the various stadiums to watch IPL this year would have known a very little of Rana, who, on Sunday evening, batted ahead of Mumbai Indians’ (MI) captain Rohit Sharma in a steep chase. Indeed, logic would say, send in your best batsman early in big chases, but by the time Mumbai Indians headed into their fifth game, Rana had consolidated himself strong enough to be sent one-down.

Mumbai Indians will not want to disturb their top-order which looks in dependable hands of Jos Buttler and Parthiv Patel, who can score quickly, but the rise of Rana should at least tempt them to give him the full 20 overs to bat.

And why not? With scores of 34, 50, 45, 11 and now 53 in the chase against Gujarat Lions (GL) on Sunday evening, Rana has undoubtedly established himself as the one to watch out for. It is not just about the runs that he has garnered, but in a competition replete with varied bowlers — from knuckle-ball specialists to fire-breathing leg-spinners. It is about how Rana has batted in IPL 2017. Indeed, Rana has emerged as one of the best young Indian batsmen.

Rana bats deep in the crease, which gives him slight amount of more time than the others to watch the ball, study it, and score off it. He uses the long handle as well as the soft hands alike, but the ability to read slower balls is something which requires a great deal of concentration as well as skills. Basil Thampi, who is regarded for bowling consistently at great pace, tried testing the left-hander outside off with a slower one. The sheer power which Rana put in the stroke to send the ball flying over extra cover showed he has a lot in the repertoire.

These are still early days, but the rise of the likes of Rana certainly interests those who find themselves unmoved with the sheer amount of cricket that is being played these days in IPL.

India have had a lot of cricket — 17 Tests, 3 ODIs, 5 T20Is — since July 2016. While Virat Kohli continues to find his form back, Rohit Sharma looking for consistency and MS Dhoni fighting for his respect, there is a lot to cheer about in Nitish Rana.