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Mumbai Indians' captain Rohit Sharma is so impressed by Tilak Varma that he believes that the 19-year-old batter has both the technique and temperament to become an all-format player for India in the near future. Varma had represented India in the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa in 2020, when they finished runners-up.
Then, in his first IPL season under Rohit, Varma emerged as a bright spot, even as his team-mates floundered and his team became the first to fall out of contention for the playoffs. So far, Varma has made 386 runs in 12 innings - the most by a teenager in an IPL season, breaking Rishabh Pant's record of 366 runs in 2017. At present, Varma is the seventh-highest run-getter this season, with those runs coming at an average of 40.88 and strike rate of 132.85.
"He's been brilliant playing for the first year," Rohit said of Varma, speaking to Star Sports, the host broadcaster, after Mumbai beat Chennai Super Kings. "Having such a calm head is never easy and in my opinion, I feel he's going to be an all-format player for India pretty soon. He's got the technique, he's got the temperament, which is the most important thing when you play at the highest level.
"So, I think a lot of things are looking bright for him and there is hunger. When you speak to him, there's hunger to do well and finish games and have some success as well. I think he's on the right path; he just needs to keep growing and see how he can improve and get better as a player."
In the injury-enforced absence of Suryakumar Yadav, Varma stepped up to finish off a small chase of 98 against Super Kings, on a challenging Wankhede pitch, after Mumbai had slumped to 33 for 4 within five overs. Varma absorbed the pressure along with offspin-bowling allrounder Hrithik Shokeen, who is also playing his first IPL season, in a 48-run partnership.
"We might try certain things" - Mumbai start planning for the future
Uncapped South African batter Tristan Stubbs, who came in as a late replacement for the injured Tymal Mills, was handed his IPL debut in the game, as Mumbai plan for the future. Stubbs fell for a duck, but he has potentially two more games this season to ease himself into the set-up.
"Yeah, we're keeping one eye on that [future] definitely, but we want to win games," Rohit said. "That's the bottom line but at the same time we want to make sure that we try out certain players and give them certain roles and try and see if they can live up to that. It will hold us in good stead for the next year. There are options that we want to try - there are still two games to go for us. So we might try certain things as well."
Stubbs' inclusion meant Kieron Pollard was dropped from the XI after managing only 144 runs at an average of 14.40 and a strike rate of 107.46 - his lowest strike rate in any IPL season. According to Rohit, the call to bench Pollard and try out other options went down well with him.
"He's been a stalwart for Mumbai, there's no doubt about it," Rohit said of Pollard. "I said it at the toss as well. It was him who came out and spoke about it [sitting out]. He's okay with that because obviously we're looking at players. Had we been in a situation where we had a chance to qualify, probably this wouldn't have happened. But we're keeping one eye on what are the holes we need to fill for the next year. Keeping everything in mind, we had to make that call and Kieron was the one who actually came up and said: 'Absolutely fine by me'."