Sudeep Tyagi : Best fast bowler in domestic cricket?
The Uttar Pradesh Ranji cricket team may be missing some key players like Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar, who have been away on national duty, this season, but it has hardly impacted them.
Pacer Sudeep Tyagi has been instrumental in helping Uttar Pradesh make a good start this season as they top Group B with 14 points from four games.
While bowling on flat Indian wickets can quite a nightmare for any fast bowler, Tyagi has held his own with a few good performances to start off the season with the bang with 18 wickets already in three games, inclusive of two five-wicket hauls, at an average of 14.27.
With the winter setting in northern India, Tyagi is perhaps the only bowler who has made full use of the conditions and has troubled the opposition a great deal.
Image: Sudeep Tyagi
Dream spell against Baroda
His inspirational bowling against Baroda helped UP seize the match from the jaws of defeat.
Chasing 176, Baroda were expected to win comfortably, but Tyagi's six wicket haul helped his side bundle out the more fancied team from western India for just 143.
"It was unbelievable!" Tyagi told Rediff.com, recalling his match figures of 8/122 for the game. "It was a low-scoring match and we had an uphill battle."
"The team was down on morale after Yusuf Pathan was put down just before lunch. Yusuf can take the game away from you. There were murmurs of how the game would be over before tea, but everything subsided when we went out for the post-lunch session."
"We got one wicket, the rest tumbled one after another. One of the proudest days of my life," he adds.
He had an encore against Himachal Pradesh, tearing the strong HP batting line-up to finish with 5/27.
Image: Sudeep Tyagi
'I've been working hard on mixing pace with variation'
He struggled with form and worse, suffered a stress fracture.
"I struggled to pick up wickets," says the 23-year-old. "I went back to the basics and worked hard on my game."
"Our coach Gyanendra Pandey, (Suresh) Raina and R P Singh helped me a lot during my tough phase."
"I've been working hard on mixing pace with variation," he adds. "It's one of the most important weapons for any fast bowler in Ranji cricket."
Uttar Pradesh skipper Mohammad Kaif believes this is the best he has seen Tyagi bowl in a long time.
"When he came into the side, he was this bowler with raw pace," says Kaif, himself once one of the brightest stars of Indian cricket. "He had a great first-class season with us."
"He is showing the same kind of form," adds Kaif. "He is bowling with good rhythm."
"This season we are seeing a lot of low-scoring matches," Kaif points out. "So the role of pacers becomes all the more important. So far he has been doing a fantastic job for us."
Image: Sudeep Tyagi with Eric Simons, the Indian cricket team's bowling consultant
Tyagi made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka
He finished the season with 41 wickets.
A string of good performances for the India 'A' team in the Emerging Nations tournament in Australia, then in Irani and Challenger Trophy games, encouraged the selectors to pick him for the One Day International series against Australia.
Though he didn't get a game that ODI series, he made his debut against Sri Lanka at Delhi's Ferozshah Kotla stadium.
That match made cricketing headlines after it was called off because of dangerous playing conditions.
Before that happened, Tyagi had figures of 6.3-1-15-1.
"I was happy to have bagged (Sri Lankan Captain Kumar) Sangakkara as my first wicket in international cricket," he says.
Image: Sudeep Tyagi celebrates during an ODI
'Zaheerbhai taught me a lot'
"Whatever little chance I got at the international level, it was a learning curve for me," he says. "Sharing the dressing room with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan was a dream come true."
"Zaheerbhai taught me a lot. Each time I struggled, I looked up to him. He was more than willing to help me and motivated me."
"Even during the IPL, whenever I got a chance to speak to him, he always passed on tips, which helped improve my game tremendously," adds Tyagi who plays for the Chennai Super Kings.
With the World Cup coming up in a few weeks, Tyagi hopes he can make the Indian team, but says he is not thinking about it that much.
"It may be difficult to find a place in the World Cup side, but I am geared up to give off my best whenever given a chance," says the bowler who has thus far been the toast of this Ranji Trophy season.
Image: Sudeep Tyagi