Before the start of the Indian Premier League 2017, all eyes were on the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and what sort of impact they would have this season, especially after their exploits in Season 9. However, with Kohli and De Villiers injured and missing the start of the tournament, a search for who would create magic with the bat soon got underway. But few would have turned their gaze to a Delhi youngster playing for the Mumbai Indians — his name Nitish Rana. Rana was coming at the back of a poor Ranji season and Vijay Hazare tournament for Delhi, which had even seen him being dropped from the side after a string of bad performances. However, two weeks into IPL 10, Rana is creating waves with his hitting prowess and surely if he continues in the same vein, a Team India call up is not too far behind.
In his very first match of IPL 10, Rana made his presence felt by scoring 34 off 28 balls. It might not have set the pulse racing but it showed that Rana was at least hitting the ball well, signified by the two sixes he hit in that match.
The stage was set for Rana in Mumbai’s next match as they took on Gautam Gambhir-led Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede. It was no secret that Gambhir, who is Rana’s captain with Delhi in the domestic circuit, had wanted the left-hander to play for KKR and had even opposed the decision by coach KP Bhaskar and selectors to drop him from the Delhi outfit after poor performances in the Vijay Hazare tournament.
Rana himself has spoken in depth about the impact Gambhir has had in his career and the KKR captain’s fears came to the fore when Rana took centre stage
In the IPL encounter at the Wankhede, Rana proved to massive thorn for Gambhir and KKR. After posting 178 for seven and Kolkata had Mumbai in all sorts of problems. Kieron Pollard had just been dismissed and MI had lost half their side, needing 60 off the last 23 balls.
Up stepped Rana and took the game by the scruff of its neck. He smashed 50 off just 29 balls and with some help from Hardik Pandya stunned KKR and led MI to an improbable four wickets win.
Next match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, he was at it again. Rana scored 45 off 36 balls, including three fours and two sixes — again leading Mumbai’s charge in the chase.
Then came the blip in the encounter against Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore. This time Rana failed to take charge of Mumbai’s chase and fell for just 11 but luckily for him and MI big West Indian Pollard played one of his finest T20 innings and bailed Mumbai out.
Rana was pushed up the order for the match against Gujarat Lions and repaid the faith by coming at one down and smashing 53 off 36 balls. He laid the foundation for Mumbai in the chase of 177.
Then came his finest innings of the tournament so far that put him right on top of the scoring chart in IPL 2017.
Mumbai were facing a daunting task after Hashim Amla’s maiden IPL century had powered Kings XI Punjab to 198/4. Aided by Englishman Jos Buttler, Rana smashed an unbeaten 62 off 34 balls. The sheer wonder of the innings was that he didn’t hit even a single four but cleared the boundary a whopping seven times to take Mumbai to victory.
Rana is now the current holder of the ‘Orange Cap’ with 255 runs and also tops the most sixes charts with 16 maximums to his name. He is quickly becoming an indispensable part of the Mumbai outfit and with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Mahela Jayawardene mentoring him, surely more good things are expected of him.
Who knows if he continues to bat like the way he has, there might, just might be a place for him in the India squad for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in the United Kingdom.