Ayush Badoni is 22. Until Monday night, he had played just five T20s for Delhi in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – and of those five appearances, he had only one chance to hit. That was in January last year.
Despite being one of the promising talents, Badoni hasn’t featured in top-level cricket since then and wasn’t even sure if he would progress to the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year.
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A student of Tarak Sinha’s Sonnet Club in Delhi, Badoni was part of the India U-19 squad in 2018 and took the spotlight after scoring an unbeaten 52 in the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka. Even after proving his mettle in age-group cricket, Badoni never really got a chance in the senior team.
But the young man did not lose hope.
After attending a few selection trials, he was brought in by Lucknow Super Giants for Rs 20 lakh. Since joining Lucknow camp, he has made his presence felt, and Captain KL Rahul fondly calls him ‘Baby AB’. While it may be too early to make any comparisons to South African superstar AB de Villiers, those who have followed Badoni’s cricket career agree that given a chance, he has the potential to make it big.
In his first IPL game at Wankhede Stadium on Monday, Badoni showed a glimpse of his genius with a 41-ball-54 against Gujarat Titans. Badoni got to work at a time when the team was reeling 29-4 – after a dream spell from Mohammed Shami – Badoni was under pressure. Badoni, who was pushed up the batting order, ahead of Krunal Pandya, handled the situation smartly and stitched an 87-run stand for the fifth wicket with Deepak Hooda to lead the team to a competitive total.
Ayush Badoni took Hardik Pandya to the cleaners in the IPL 2022 meeting between Lucknow and Gujarat. – SPORTZPICS
While initially turning the attack, allowing Hooda to go for the shots, Badoni also flexed his muscles as he racked up 15 runs in the 15th off Hardik Pandya. It was not easy, considering that he faced the international stars for the first time.
“Gautam” bhaiya supported me a lot. He said I should just play my natural game. He told me you don’t get that one match, but you get a good run. He also told me, ‘You don’t have to play based on the situation. That’s what older players are for. You show us your natural play’…” Badoni said after the match, explaining the role of Lucknow mentor Gautam Gambhir.
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He had scored half a century in the exhibition games and that is how he caught the attention of Gambhir. “In the exhibition games for Lucknow I scored fifty thousand in both games. Gautam bhaiya liked that, and the other coaches were impressed too. So they believed I could punch for Krunal,” he said.
While Captain Rahul also praised him, Badoni admitted that the past three years have indeed been challenging. “The last three years have been a bit of a struggle. I didn’t get much chance with Delhi either. I only played one season and got to bat only once. Before that I improved my game, I added more shots, which helped me a lot,” he said.
“I’ve been up for auction for three years and have gone unsold,” Badoni said of the intervening three years. “I went to trials for two to three teams, but in the end nobody picked me at the auction. So I’m grateful to Lucknow for choosing me,” he added.
Over the past 15 years, the IPL has shaped several careers and after missing years of big ticket cricket, Badoni has finally found an opportunity. And he wants to make the most of it.