Abdul Samad, the 18-year-old with a reputation for big hitting, earned his IPL debut with Sunrisers Hyderabad in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. In case you don't know much about him, here's a quick check.
Who is Abdul Samad?
A big-hitting batsman who can also bowl quickish legspin, Samad was one of the breakout stars of the 2019-20 Indian domestic season. Nobody struck more sixes than his 36 for Jammu & Kashmir in the Ranji Trophy, and in all he hit 592 runs in 17 innings at an eye-popping strike rate of nearly 113.
Mentored by Irfan Pathan, the J&K player-cum-mentor, and endorsed by Milap Mewada, the coach, Samad became the fourth player from J&K to break into the IPL after Parvez Rasool, Mansoor Dar and Rasikh Salam, when Sunrisers snapped him up for his base price of INR 20 lakh in the December 2019 auction.
What about Pathan's role in his development?
Pathan and Mewada first spotted Samad as a 16-year-old in 2018, at a trial in Jammu. His driving on the up against quicks bowling from 18 yards out had Pathan digging up Samad's scores in districts cricket.
"He was effortlessly hitting the ball," Pathan told ESPNcricinfo during the most recent domestic season. "But when I looked through his numbers, he didn't have one 50-plus score. I took him aside and told him he would be put in the probables, but he needed to work on preserving his wicket. It's not about six-hitting.
What is his USP?
Hitting sixes. It was on display in the Ranji Trophy. It was also on display in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy when he smacked four sixes off Piyush Chawla in Jaipur. He was also at it in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, making rapid runs in the middle order on tough, spin-friendly pitches in Surat. His cameos - 29 off 10 balls against Odisha, 28* off 13 against Nagaland, and 32* off 24 balls against Saurashtra - all contributed to victories for J&K.
When VVS Laxman, Sunrisers' mentor, was looking for a middle-order finisher for his franchise, Mewada, who was Laxman's Under-19 team-mate many moons ago, recommended Samad for the role.
Does he have the ability to build an innings too?
Samad has showed signs of it in the Ranji Trophy. When J&K were reduced to 131 for 4 in their second innings against Maharashtra on a green track in Pune, he absorbed the pressure and averted a collapse, scoring 78 off 89 balls. His contribution was central to J&K stretching their lead to 363 and eventually winning the game. Samad also stepped up against a quality Karnataka attack, making 43 off 50 balls in the Ranji quarter-final at home, but J&K narrowly fell short of the first-innings lead and eventually lost the game.
In a slightly iffy Sunrisers middle order, he may have to play the dual role of building an innings as well as finishing depending on the game-scenario and conditions in IPL 2020.