Ayush Badoni is 22. Until Monday evening, he had played just five T20s for Delhi in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – and of those five outings, he only got one opportunity to bat. That was in January, last year.
Despite being one of the promising talents, Badoni did not feature in any top-level cricket since and was not even sure of making the cut for the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year.
A student of Tarak Sinha’s Sonnet Club in Delhi, Badoni was part of the India U-19 team in 2018 and hogged the limelight after scoring an unbeaten 52 in the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka. Even after proving his mettle in age-group cricket, Badoni never really got an opportunity in the senior team.
But the youngster did not lose hope.
After attending a few selection trials, he was roped in by Lucknow Super Giants for Rs 20 lakh. Ever since joining the Lucknow camp, he has made his presence felt, and captain K.L. Rahul fondly calls him ‘Baby AB’. While it may be too early to draw comparisons with the South African superstar AB de Villiers, those who have tracked Badoni’s cricketing career agree that if given a chance, he has the potential to make it big.
Featuring in his first IPL game at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday, Badoni displayed glimpses of his brilliance with a 41-ball-54 against Gujarat Titans. Walking out to bat at a time when the team was reeling at 29-4 – after a dream spell by Mohammed Shami – Badoni was under pressure. Being pushed up the batting order, ahead of Krunal Pandya, Badoni, handled the situation smartly and stitched an 87-run stand for the fifth wicket with Deepak Hooda to guide the team to a competitive total.
Ayush Badoni took Hardik Pandya to the cleaners in the IPL 2022 encounter between Lucknow and Gujarat. – SPORTZPICS
While he initially rotated the strike, allowing Hooda to go for the shots, Badoni also flexed his muscles as he picked up 15 runs in the 15th over off Hardik Pandya. It was not easy, given the fact that he was facing the international stars for the first time.
“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 said after the match, explaining the role of Lucknow mentor Gautam Gambhir.
He had scored half-centuries in the practice games and that’s how he caught Gambhir’s attention. “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,” he said.
While captain Rahul, too, heaped praises on him, Badoni admitted that the last three years were indeed challenging. “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 said.
“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,” he added.
Over the last 15 years, the IPL has shaped several careers and after missing out on big-ticket cricket for years, Badoni has finally found an opportunity. And, he wants to make the most of it.