From oblivion to Baby AB

Cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL) is a platform where unknown players get in the limelight in a matter of few matches.

The latest to hog the centre stage in this cash-rich Twenty20 tournament is Ayush Badoni.

In just three matches in the ongoing tournament, the Delhi lad has made headlines.

The right-handed batsman, who was bought in the players' auction for his base price of Rs20 lakh (S$36,000) by debutants Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), has already earned the nickname "Baby AB", drawing comparisons with the South African legend AB de Villiers.

The moniker was revealed by Lucknow captain and India batsman K.L. Rahul as he sang the praises of the 22-year-old after he hit an impressive 54 off 41 balls in his IPL debut against the Gujarat Titans at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on March 28.

His team lost that match. But three days later, at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, Badoni scored an unbeaten 19 from just nine balls with two sixes.

The runs came under pressure when Lucknow were chasing 211 against four-time champions Chennai Super Kings.

When Badoni joined Evin Lewis in the middle, Lucknow needed 40 to win off 14 balls.

He remained calm in that situation and hit a six over square leg, down on one knee, off Shivam Dube, in the 19th over.

The shot hit a female spectator. But the way he deposited the ball into the stands got social media talking - as it had shades of de Villiers.

He and Lewis saw the team home in the final over.

His range of shots - particularly the three sixes off Gujarat skipper Hardik Pandya, leg-spinner Rashid Khan and fast bowler Lockie Ferguson in his maiden IPL contest - have earned him high praise.

After the match against Chennai, Rahul described Badoni as a "360-degree player" and a great find for India.

"The way he's been batting is phenomenal," said the Lucknow captain.

"Strong, 360-degree player, a great find for India and an asset for white-ball cricket.

"He is the baby AB for us. From the first day he was batting, it was unbelievable."

On Monday, Badoni produced a fiery 19 runs off 12 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad before getting run out on the last ball of the innings.

Lucknow fans are now calling on the team management to promote him from No. 6 to No. 3 in the batting order.

It has looked easy but Badoni's journey to IPL was filled with struggles.

His talent would not have been on display if not for the backing of former India batsman Gautam Gambhir, who is now Lucknow's mentor.

Despite doing well at the age-group level, Delhi's selectors ignored Badoni for the state Under-16 team and later for the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy tournaments.

Badoni impressed while playing for India Under-19, which prompted then coach of the side Rahul Dravid to ask Atul Wassan, chairman of the Cricket Advisory Committee of the Delhi and District Cricket Association, to take care of the youngster. But Wassan's suggestion was ignored by the Delhi selectors.

In 2018, Badoni smashed 185 in the U-19 Youth Test against Sri Lanka. In the U-19 Asia Cup final, he hit a 28-ball 50 not out as India won the title against Sri Lanka in Dhaka.

However, chances did not come his way. He got to make his Delhi debut in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament only in January last year, when he got to bat in one of the five games and scored just eight runs.

"I am grateful as Lucknow picked me (for IPL 2022) and now I need to perform and make my team win, I will try my best," said Badoni.

"Yes, there has been a little struggle for three years. I did not get a chance from Delhi, so I enhanced my game, tried and learnt new shots, and that helped me in the T20s."

Gambhir acknowledged that Badoni was talented but it was too early to talk about him as a superstar.

"Yes, he's got loads of talent," said Gambhir. "We've seen him for a long time as he comes from Delhi.

"The most important thing for him is to stay balanced and for us to keep him balanced."

Indo-Asian News Service

"Yes, there has been a little struggle for three years. I did not get a chance from Delhi, so I enhanced my game, tried and learnt new shots, and that helped me in the T20s."

- Ayush Badoni (left)

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