Yuvraj backs 'outstanding talent' Vohra
Manan Vohra, the 20-year-old Punjab opener, wasn't even part of the state Ranji team when the season started but has since caught the fast elevator to success.
Three back-to-back centuries in the Colonel CK Nayudu Trophy, the four-day Under-25 tournament, in November, springboarded him into the Ranji team and he cemented his place at the top of the order with impressive half-centuries. His performances were capped with 187 against Jharkhand on a turning pitch. Now, Vohra's season has just got even better; he was one of two players retained by Kings XI Punjab in the lead-up to the 2014 tournament, ahead of other talented locals like Mandeep Singh and Gurkeerat Singh.
The news of his retention came as a surprise for Vohra, but his celebrated Punjab team-mate, Yuvraj Singh, believes he could succeed. "He is an outstanding young talent," Yuvraj told ESPNcricinfo. "He has the potential to play for the country one day, hopefully he will justify his talent."
Vohra is not a new name in Punjab cricket circles. He first rose to prominence at the U-19 level, scoring an unbeaten 79 off 35 balls against Australia A in a 167-run stand with Unmukt Chand in 2011, but missed the U-19 World Cup in 2012 due to injury. After debuting for the Punjab Ranji team in 2011 - he played two matches that season - he went off the radar again and lost vital preparation time in 2013 because of a knee injury. However, once he was drafted into the squad this year, he hasn't looked back.
"Vohra was selected on the basis of his performances in U-25 cricket," Bhupinder Singh Sr, the Punjab coach, said. "He scored three hundreds in [a total of] four matches there before making it to the first-class team. We wanted to draft him in when he was in his best form and he has shown he can play in the big league.
"He is an attacking batsman and he likes to play his shots. He is one of the most promising batsmen from the region and we are happy with the news that he has been retained by Kings XI."
Vohra was added to the Kings XI squad last year and impressed in his first outing, scoring an unbeaten 28-ball 43 against Pune Warriors. He scored a further 118 runs in 11 matches, but his prime form in the Ranji Trophy has given him a surprise boost.
Bhupinder believes Vohra is the best of the new generation of Punjab batsmen. However, he said, while being retained in the IPL is a positive for any cricketer, Vohra should remain focused on further developing his game. "How he handles the pressure… a lot will depend on the individual, his family will have a supporting role to play too," he said. "Even to get into the IPL, you have to be a consistent player in the BCCI-run tournaments. Otherwise, you can get in for one or two years, but won't be able to sustain it. So my best wishes to him. He is a promising player and I hope he can make it to the national team one day."
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo