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Feature

The Mayank Yadav story: from not having a run-up to lighting up the IPL

The Lucknow Super Giants fast bowler had to wait two years for his chance in the IPL, and he made sure it was worth it

Nagraj Gollapudi
01-Apr-2024
Mayank Mayank: Tall, lean, and frighteningly fast  •  BCCI

Mayank Mayank: Tall, lean, and frighteningly fast  •  BCCI

In 2021, the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi teams were practicing next to each other at the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Former India wicketkeeper Vijay Dahiya was the UP coach, and a fast bowler in the Delhi nets caught his eye, making him want to move to a position from where he could observe him.
After watching the Delhi bowler deliver a couple of balls, Dahiya was convinced he had found an exciting and explosive talent for Lucknow Super Giants, with whom he was an assistant coach and talent scout.
"The moment our nets finished, I got in touch with the fast bowler," Dahiya told ESPNcricinfo. "And immediately after that, I spoke to Gautam [Gambhir, LSG's director of cricket at the time] and told him, 'here's a boy, we have to pick him at the auction, straightaway'. I had no doubts whatsoever."
That fast bowler was Mayank Yadav, now 21, who on Saturday broke the back of the Punjab Kings chase with a four-over spell of extreme fast bowling that will be remembered for a long time by those who watched it. Hitting speeds north of 150kph repeatedly, Mayank had batters with international experience hopping, and his 155.8kph thunderbolt to Shikhar Dhawan has been recorded as the fastest ball of this IPL season.
After Punjab had powered to 102 for no loss in the 12th over in a chase of 200, Mayank took the crucial wickets of Jonny Bairstow, Prabhsimran Singh and Jitesh Sharma, all of them hurried by his express pace and caught trying to pull. Mayank was the Player of the Match on his IPL debut and became an instant sensation.
"He came in and broke the back of our batting," former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar, now Kings' director of cricket, said. "He bowled really fast and the lengths that he bowled made it difficult. He used the big side of the boundary. He put us back big time in the game and we couldn't force the issue."
Dahiya's pick, who LSG had bought at the IPL 2022 auction at his base price of INR 20 lakh, had made a head-turning start to his IPL career.

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Speaking to the media in Lucknow, Mayank relived how he felt when LSG coach Justin Langer told him that he would be making his debut against Kings the following evening.
"There was a lot of excitement," he said. "For the past two years, I was only visualising one thing: how will I deliver that first ball in IPL and how it would feel in front of the audience. People told [me] there could be some nervousness, some pressure. But I did not feel that at all. When the captain [Nicholas Pooran] told me to bowl my first over, I felt inside me that I belong to this place. And my confidence was high."
Dale Steyn, the one fast bowler Mayank "idolises", couldn't believe what he was watching at home in South Africa, and said on X: "Mayank Yadav, where have you been hiding!"
Brett Lee also expressed a similar sentiment.

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The wait for Mayank, however, had been frustrating.
Once he had left the stadium after winning the game for LSG, Mayank sent messages to his mother and the head coach of the much-celebrated Sonnet Cricket Club in Delhi, Devendra Sharma. The gist was that he had made his debut and that he was happy.
Sharma explained the context. In the first half of IPL 2023, Mayank had messaged Sharma on two occasions, saying he was going to make his debut. It did not happen and he was eventually ruled out of the season because of an injury.
"He called me twice last season saying 'today is my debut, so please watch'," Sharma said. "But when I opened the [TV], he was nowhere on the team sheet.
"After this match [Mayank's IPL debut], he checked [in with me] whether he bowled well. After he got hit for two fours, he came back really well."
The coaches at Sonnet had realised that Mayank could blossom into a good fast bowler if he followed a development plan. He played club cricket across different levels before making his debut for Delhi in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2021, where he took three wickets in a ten-run victory against Haryana.
While Dahiya was excited by Mayank's potential, he had told Gambhir he did not see him playing in IPL 2022 because Mayank "did not have bowling miles in his legs".
"I remember he was bowling a few no-balls early on in training in the 2022 season," Dahiya said. "We told him to mark his run-up. He said, 'I don't have a run-up - from wherever I feel comfortable, I turn and run in'." Dahiya and LSG's coaches were gobsmacked. How could a bowler who had already played for his state not have a proper run-up? He was taught the importance of having one, and why it was necessary to take a breather before steaming in.
"When I was a child, [my father] would show me when Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Mitchell Johnson were bowling. The one thing I liked very much was when the batter was hit on the body or helmet - that inspired me to take up fast bowling"
Mayank Yadav
Unfortunately for Mayank, during a practice match early in IPL 2023, he lost his footing because the landing area was a "bit wet", as Dahiya put it. He continued bowling but had to pull out on the fifth delivery and the pull he felt in his quadriceps turned out to be a Grade 2 tear. Dahiya, Gambhir and Andy Flower, LSG's head coach at the time, agreed Mayank should do his rehab with the squad.
In the 2023 Deodhar Trophy, the domestic 50-over tournament played less than two months after the IPL, Mayank took 12 wickets for North Zone. It was there that Mayank hit 155kph - possibly the turning point of his career. You can watch YouTube clips of Mayank sending stumps flying.
Dahiya was commentating on that tournament. "He was not going crazy just for the pace," Dahiya said. "His bouncers were thought out. A lot of people are quick when they deliver their short-pitch deliveries. His pitched-up deliveries are also quick. That makes him a bit more dangerous."

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As a youngster, Mayank loved anything fast. "Let it be a rocket, plane or superbikes - I like speed. As a child, I like watching jets and was fascinated," he said with a grin at a media conference. But one thing excited him more than anything else.
"My father liked fast bowlers a lot. When I was a child, he would show me when Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Mitchell Johnson were bowling. The one thing I liked very much was when the batter was hit on the body or helmet - that inspired me to take up fast bowling."
Mayank is 6'1" in his socks and is lean and muscular. According to former India fast bowler Varun Aaron, Mayank gets his pace from a smooth bowling action including a perfect head and arm position during the load-up, as well as a braced front leg that lands facing the batter. Sharma believes Mayank's wrist position allows him to deliver a bouncer with a three-quarter seam, something fast bowlers like Lee did effortlessly.
Mayank, fondly called Minty by his family, lives with his parents and older sister in Motinagar in Delhi. Even before he had reached his teens, his father Prabhu was convinced that Mayank should play cricket, and he spent nearly a year trying to find a way for his son to audition in front of the iconic, late Sonnet Club coach Tarak Sinha.
When the opportunity finally arrived, Mayank, then 15 and slender, bowled in the nets and impressed Sinha instantly. Prabhu, however, was a bit reluctant to enrol his son immediately because of a "business crisis". Back then, he made digital timers for cars. Now he makes sirens for police vehicles.
Sharma insisted that Mayank start the day after the audition and Sonnet quickly "adopted" him, Prabhu said. Shoes, travel to matches, and lodging - everything was covered.
"Speed comes naturally to Mayank," Sharma said. "It's a god-given gift. When he bowled the first time, the ball was flying off the seam. Bada ajeeb ladka hain [this boy is strange], I thought."
Prabhu never even allowed his son to carry his kit bag when he was young, so that he could just focus on developing his game, but once Sonnet took charge, he trusted them. "Minty said to me that now that he is settled in Sonnet, I can focus on my work," Prabhu said with pride.
But, as teams analyse Mayank, they will find ways to counter his express pace, so his development plan at LSG will be crucial, Dahiya said. Umran Malik is an example of a fast bowler who took the IPL by storm, but hasn't developed much since he burst onto the scene.
On Sunday, the day after Mayank's debut, father and son had a word. "I told him you are doing well," Prabhu said. "What all skills you have, do utilise them in future matches."
Next stop, Bengaluru, where LSG take on RCB on Tuesday at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, a venue that tests even the best of bowlers.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo