IPL 2022 – GT vs LSG

Who is this 22-year-old who comes in and drags Rashid for a six and chops Ferguson for another?

The first thing Harsha Bhogle asked him during the mid-match interview was, “Where are you hiding?”. It was, of course, a fair question. Just eight runs to his name in T20 cricket and no List A or first-class cricket under his belt, the 22-year-old comes in and scores a fifty which includes, among others, Rashid Khan for a six and hooks the blazing fast Lockie Ferguson for another . So where was Ayush Badoni hiding?

“How do I answer that question?” said Badoni. How can a 22-year-old answer that?

Those who follow Delhi cricket are asking the same question: why hasn’t he played more games for Delhi after impressing at India Under-19 level, scoring an unbeaten 185 in a youth test against Sri Lanka Under-19 and also a 28- ball 52 scored in the Asian Cup final? A video of his at bat during those innings can be found on Twitter. He comes from the same stable as Rishabh Pant, Tarak Sinha’s Sonnet club.
Enter Gautam Gambhir, the mentor at Lucknow Super Giants. He is a leader who supports his instinct, someone who has brought players from outside Delhi to Delhi and fought for them against the establishment. And Badoni is not just picked up, but gets a game in the first game and is sent for Krunal Pandya.

That’s exactly how Delhi cricket is. You get one hit in three years for reasons you don’t know, and then boom – someone from Delhi cricket takes you to the big time.

“Gautam bhaiya He supported me a lot,” Badoni said after the game. “He told me to 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 game.”

It’s been a bit of a wilderness for him since the Under-19 days. India’s NCA and Under-19 programs aim to prepare the young players to establish them in their state’s premier league right after their Under-19 stints, but there’s not much they can do if the state rosters don’t work for the players. Badoni seems to be one of those cases.

“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 or three teams, but in the end nobody picked me at the auction. So I’m grateful to Lucknow for choosing me.

“The past three years have been a bit of a struggle. I didn’t get much chance at Delhi either. I only played one season and was only allowed to bat once. Before that I improved my game, added more shots, which helped me a lot .”

Once he was picked up by Super Giants, Badoni managed to impress all the coaches. “In the exhibition games for Lucknow I scored fifty thousand in both games,” said Badoni. “Gautam bhaiya liked that, and the other coaches were impressed too. So they believed I could punch for Krunal.”

So Badoni may not be able to answer the question of where he’s been hiding for the past three years, but after this debut, he could eventually force some decision-makers in Delhi to ask themselves that question.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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