If you're an up-and-coming fast bowler who dreams of making it to the big stage, learning from the biggest legends of the game would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you'd cherish forever. 18-year-old Naman Tiwari, who was recently named in the Indian team for the 2024 ICC Men's U19 World Cup and played the Tri-Nation U19 series in South Africa, seems to have ticked off that item on his bucket list.
A left-arm pacer hailing from Lucknow with speed and variation in his arsenal, Naman was first spotted by Rajasthan Royals back in 2020 through an interaction with his coach, Yash Sahni. Impressed by his hunger to perform at such a young age, the coaches encouraged him to participate in Speedster (A Rajasthan Royals x Red Bull competition launched to find the best fast bowlers in the country). Winners of this competition would go on to become net bowlers for the Royals, get a chance to bowl to the players during the IPL season, and also hone their skills under the tutelage of expert coaches. Naman came through the ranks in one such season, thus beginning his cricketing journey with the Royals.
"It is a special experience to play cricket in the nets and talk with the legends whom you watch on television. I got to learn a lot there and during this time I have also improved as a bowler," Naman was quoted saying in an interview with Red Bull.
For three years now, the youngster has been an integral part of the Royals' net bowling setup, bowling to a legion of Indian and overseas stars in the team, while also being supported by the coaches on his year-round development throughout the year, and not just during the IPL season. In his time at the Royals camp last year, he also got an opportunity to interact with our former Fast Bowling Coach Lasith Malinga, and his left-arm hero, Trent Boult. As someone who belongs to a rare breed of left-arm quicks, meeting Boult was a priceless moment for UP's prodigal son.
"I have been following Trent Boult since the beginning. I used to watch him bowling in the nets but was a little nervous to approach him and talk to him. But when I bowled in the nets, he himself came and encouraged me and it was a great moment for me. Whereas Lasith Malinga has been the best yorker bowler in the world and I had many questions from him on maintaining yorker and consistency. He gave many tips," he added.
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Fast forward to this day, Naman is already making a mark in the India jersey, most recently in the South Africa Tri-series, where his ruthless spell of 4/11 powered India U19 to a thumping 9-wicket win over Afghanistan U19 just before the final. He also finished as India U19's highest wicket-taker in the tournament and was third on the list of most wickets overall. Two weeks from now, he will once again don the India blue, this time with higher stakes in the U19 World Cup and a bag full of confidence.