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Who is Ayush Badoni? (and where has he been hiding?)

Who's this 22-year-old who comes in and slog-sweeps Rashid for a six and hooks Ferguson for another?

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
The first thing Harsha Bhogle asked him in the mid-match interview was, "where have you been hiding?". It was, of course, a valid question. Just eight runs to his name in T20 cricket and no List A or first-class cricket under his belt, the 22-year-old comes in and scores a fifty during which he, among other things, slog-sweeps Rashid Khan for a six and hooks the searingly quick Lockie Ferguson for another. So where had Ayush Badoni been hiding?
"How do I answer that question?" Badoni said. How can a 22-year-old answer that?
Those who follow Delhi cricket ask the same question: why has he not played more games for Delhi after impressing at India Under-19 level, scoring an unbeaten 185 in a youth Test against Sri Lanka Under-19 and also scoring a 28-ball 52 in the Asia Cup final? A video of his hitting during that innings can be found on Twitter. He comes from the same stable as Rishabh Pant, Tarak Sinha's Sonnet club.
Enter Gautam Gambhir, the mentor at Lucknow Super Giants. He is a leader who backs his instinct, somebody who has brought players from outside Delhi to Delhi and has fought the establishment for them. And Badoni is not just picked up, but given a game in the first match and sent in ahead of Krunal Pandya.
That's just how Delhi cricket is. You get one hit in three years for reasons you don't know, and then boom - someone from Delhi cricket takes you to the big time.
"Gautam bhaiya backed me a lot," Badoni said after the match. "He told me to play just my natural game. He told me you won't get the one-odd match, but you will get a proper run. He also told me, 'you don't need to play according to the situation. There are senior players to do that. You show us your natural game'."
It has been a bit of a wilderness for him since the Under-19 days. India's NCA and Under-19 programmes aim to prepare the young players to establish them in their states' first-class sides straightaway after their Under-19 stints, but they can't do much if the state selections don't work out for the players. Badoni seems to be one of those cases.
"I have been in the auction for three years and have gone unsold," Badoni said of the intervening three years. "I have been to trials for two-three teams but nobody picked me at the auction eventually. So I am grateful to Lucknow for picking me.
"The last three years have been a bit of a struggle. I didn't get much of a chance with Delhi either. I played only one season, and got to bat only once. For that I have enhanced my game, I have added more shots, which has helped me a lot."
Once he got picked up by Super Giants, Badoni managed to impress all the coaches. "In the practice matches for Lucknow, I scored fifties in both the games," Badoni said. "Gautam bhaiya liked that, and the other coaches were impressed too. So they believed I could bat ahead of Krunal."
So Badoni might not be able to answer the question where he had been hiding the last three years, but after this debut, he might end up forcing some decision-makers at Delhi to ask themselves that question.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo