“Where have you been hiding?”
It was the first thing that Harsha Bogle asked 22-year-old Ayush Badoni during the mid-match interview on his IPL debut, after the Lucknow Super Giants batter came in and scored a fifty, as well as slog-sweeped Rashid Khan and Lockie Ferguson, among other things.
Badoni replied: “How do I answer that question?”
It’s probably the same question in mind for those who follow Delhi cricket. Why has Badoni not played more matches for Delhi after doing a great job at India Under-19 level, in which he scored an unbeaten 185 in a youth Test against Sri Lanka Under-19? Oh, and he also scored a 28-ball 52 in the Asia Cup final.
It was Lucknow Super Giants mentor Gautam Gambhir who saw the potential of Badoni, who not only picked up the young batter, but also gave him a game in the first match. He was sent in ahead of Krunal Pandya.
Gambhir is known as someone who backs his instincts and has used them to bring in players from outside Delhi. He goes so far as to fight the establishment for the players he chose.
“Gautam bhaiya backed me a lot. 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’,” Badoni revealed after the match.
Since the Under-19 days, Badoni has been in the wilderness. He has been in the auction for three years and has gone unsold. India’s NCA and Under-19 programmes help young players in establishing them in their states’ first-class sides straight away after their stints in the Under-19. However, these players can’t do much if the state selections don’t work in their favor, which seems to be the case with Badoni.
“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,” Badoni said.
He further added: “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.”
He definitely made up for all that by impressing all the coaches once he got picked up by the Super Giants.
“In the practice matches for Lucknow, I scored fifties in both the games. Gautam bhaiya liked that, and the other coaches were impressed too. So they believed I could bat ahead of Krunal.”
After his impressive debut, the decision-makers at Delhi will have to ask themselves: Indeed, where has Badoni been hiding the last three years?