Spin Hitter: Tilak Varma

By Ronan Alexander

In its 30 matches so far, the IPL has thrown up several mouth-watering finishes and destructive individual performances, so much so, that you’d be forgiven if you happened to forget one. Looking at the tournament as a whole with an under-24 player spin on things, the most impactful young batter has been Namboori Thakur Tilak Varma.

The 19-year-old Mumbai Indians middle order spin hitter has achieved the 13th best ‘Runs Above Average (RAA)’ for the competition. RAA is used by Cricmetric and measures the performance of a batter/bowler in terms of how many more runs the player contributed over an average player in a given year/season. Tilak Varma has achieved 94 RAA, the 13th best. No batter aged 24 or under is above him on this list. In fact, the next best is his teammate Ishan Kishan who is down in 27th place.

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So far, the left hander has scores of 22, 61, 38*, 0, 36 and 26 having been a rare shining light for what’s been a dismal start to the campaign for the five-time IPL winners. Tilak has performed admirably so far in a challenging role, coming in as a spin-hitter in the middle overs. As you can see from the graph below, he’s performed better than the majority of batters in the tournament for six out of the seven metrics used on the graph. The black line is the average of the competition for each metric and Tilak is above it, apart from boundary percentage. However, you have to consider that he spends the majority of his innings at the crease during the middle overs where boundaries are hardest to come by. So, to still be achieving a boundary percent 18.4 is impressive.

During his 61(33) against Rajasthan Royals, you can see from the wagon wheel that he is able to score in a variety of areas. He is strong through the covers and driving down the ground against seam, whilst also hitting in to out against the ball turning away from him. Versus spin, he is strong both sweeping and reverse sweeping.

Tilak wagon wheel (courtesy of Cricinfo)

The spin hitting is where the former India Under 19’s internationalist comes to life.

Bowling TypeSeamSpin InSpin Away
Strike Rate124.5171.4164.3

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In fact, his hitting against spin is the current best for an IPL batter that has faced a minimum of 40 balls since 2020 as shown in the graph used in Jarrod Kimber’s video highlighting Pat Cummins strength of smashing pace.

You can check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlKNCQv0E24

There are many things which Mumbai have got wrong in the tournament, which I won’t go in to as I could be here for a while. However, one thing they have nailed is that middle order spin hitting role, which is a difficult role to fill as well. Tilak needs some help from his teammates to help Mumbai get back to their best during the second half of the IPL season, but what we’ve seen from him individually so far is brilliant.

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