For those who have been following the Indian Premier League, especially the last two seasons, Tilak Varma may not be a stranger. He has been one of the young stars for Mumbai Indians – a champion team in transition. The 20-year-old has lived up to the expectations so far, with a promising start to his senior international career, with scores of 39, 51 and 49* in the three matches of the five-T20I series against the West Indies.
In a series where the experienced batters have mostly flopped – India trail 1-2 – Varma has stood out with his temperament, shot-selection and technique.
Cricket buffs are not surprised though – Varma was MI's second top run-getter in 2022, his debut season. He scored 397 runs in 14 matches, at an average of 36.09 and a strike rate of 131.02.
He followed it up with 343 runs this year. Though the runs were fewer, it came at an average of 42.88 and a strike rate of 164.11 – both significantly higher than the year before.
His 960 runs in the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy paved the way for a senior debut in 2019. He went on to become the top run-getter in the U-19 quadrangular series, before scoring 86 runs in three innings at the U-19 World Cup, where India finished as runners-up.
In the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021-22, he scored 180 runs in five games and also took four wickets. The next season, he did even better, making 402 runs (including two centuries and a fifty) and grabbing three wickets.
He then scored four fifties in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2022, and amassed 297 runs at an average of almost 50. The recently concluded Duleep Trophy saw him scoring an important 40 in the first innings of the finals, with his team South Zone winning the title.
He was picked up by Mumbai Indians for Rs 1.7 crore in the IPL auction.
He also starred for India A, scoring a century in a four-day game against New Zealand A, and a half-century in a 50-over game against the same opponents.
Varma battled several odds to reach where he is today. He was born into a middle-class family in Hyderabad. His father, Namboori Nagaraju, was an electrician and his mother, Gayatri Devi, a housewife. It was Salam Bayash, the head coach at Legala Cricket Academy, who noticed the talented yougster playing tennis-ball cricket. He convinced Varma's parents and took him under his wings. He got the family to shift base, closer to the academy. By 2016, he had represented Hyderabad at the U-14 and U-16 levels.
The selection to the U-19 Hyderabad team in 2018 was a turning point. He followed it up with notable performances in U-19 Cooch Behar tournament and the CK Nayudu U-23 tournaments, which helped him get into the senior Hyderabad team.
A fan of Suresh Raina, Varma's aim, according to his father, is to represent India in all three formats.