An astonishing performance in first-class cricket is drifting away from public consciousness since the protagonist’s name is often associated with Twenty20 cricket.
In the Duleep Trophy final of 2017 in Lucknow, Washington Sundar, then only 17, scalped 11 batsmen in the contest (six and five) and produced knocks of 88 and 42 for India Red against India Blue to become the first cricketer with 10-plus wickets and more than 100 runs in the summit clash of this prestigious competition.
A performance that underlined Washington’s immense potential as an all-rounder. The Chennai lad, looking at a fresh season with optimism, has resumed training. He travels to a local ground with his father M. Sundar —someone good enough to make the State Ranji squad in his time — and is specifically focussing on his batting.
“I am confident about my bowling. I feel I have to concentrate on my batting to get the best out of myself there,” Washington told Sportstar on Saturday.
What are the aspects Washington is conscious about? The left-hander answered, “Keeping the base strong, head still and watching the ball closely.”
Even as his father does the throwdowns, Washington, stressing fundamentals, plays strokes around the wicket.
A natural with the willow, Washington made the India under-19 team essentially as a top-order batsman and his highest Ranji score, 159 against Tripura, arrived as an opener.
“I am essentially an opener but when I joined the India under-19 team, Rahul Dravid Sir asked me to bat in the middle-order and wanted me to bowl off-spin a lot more. I adjusted to the role,” the youngster said.
Washington then grabbed eyeballs in the IPL with his calm and canny bowling in the PowerPlay overs and soon did the same for India in Twenty20 cricket.
However, since he surfaced late in batting, the opportunities to sparkle with the willow were few and far.
Washington has a lot going for him as a batsman. He allows the ball to come to him, plays late, has soft hands and timing; he can ease the ball into the gaps with the free-flowing grace of a southpaw.
In the Tamil Nadu Premier League, he has conjured whirlwind efforts, cutting and pulling the short-pitched deliveries, and punching off his back-foot.
He has also realised the need to adapt. “I know for India, I could be coming at No. 6 or 7 in the Twenty20 internationals. I enjoy the challenge and the sense of adventure in batting at these slots.”
Washington does not want to create self-imposed pressure by setting goals. “I want to follow the process, tick the boxes, the rest will follow.”