Thangarasu Natarajan aka T Natarajan, belongs to a small village Chinnappampatti in Taramangalam Block in Salem District of Tamil Nadu State. There are high chances that most of the people reading this wouldn’t have heard of this village until Natarajan took your attention with a dreamy 2020 year with the ball.
He used to live in a one-room hut with his four siblings and parents. His father used to earn about mere Rs 1,500 per week as a daily wage labourer in a saree factory and his mother used to sell a chicken on a small table outside their hut and T Natarajan worked different jobs such as distributing newspapers and milk. With his IPL earnings, the pacer got his family a new two-storey house, perhaps the only one in his village that remains scarce electricity.
He had had doubts about his career in cricket regularly but it took the prize money of a local tennis-ball tournament to attract further solidify his belief about becoming a professional cricketer.
A place in the Jolly Rovers side, one of the top teams of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), allowed Natarajan to showcase his abilities with the leather ball. Consequently, he got cll up to the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy side.
However, as things started to go his way, his career got sharply derailed when he was reported for a suspect action and suspended for a year in 2014. This disheartened him but the left-armer stood up again and worked hard with the support of TNCA coaches on his action and fitness and returned with some impressive performances.
In 2016, Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) became his comeback stage and T Natarajan made the most of it.
Then came the life-changing IPL contract worth 3 crore from Kings XI Punjab (then Punjab Kings) in 2017. He couldn’t do much then – 2 wickets in 6 matches – but something had been observed in him by the Sunrisers Hyderabad management and they got him for 40 lakh next season.
He didn’t play a single game in the 2018 and 2019 seasons before the career-changing 2020 season came when he snapped 16 wickets; his pinpoint yorkers got everyone’s attention- his bowled the most number of yorkers that season – and was drafted in to tour Australia as a net bowler.
An injury to Varun Chakravarthy got him a place in the white-ball squads and then an injury to Navdeep Saini got him an ODI debut that was followed by a T20I debut. He was so impressive in the T20I series which India won that Hardik Pandya gave his Man of the Series award to Natarajan.
Away from his newborn daughter, T Natarajan was giving his best on the field. The management then asked him to stay in Australia for the Test series as a net bowler in order to prepare the Indian batters for the left-arm angle of Mitchell Starc.
As the fate would turn out to be, the visitors suffered a spate of injuries and Natarajan was given a Test debut as well – in the all-important Test in Gabba, Brisbane! He performed exceedingly well with the ball, claiming the crucial wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to keep India alive.
India won the Gabba Test and T Natarajan became part of history. He may not play Test cricket again – given his fitness issues and the number of fast bowlers emerging – but in Australia Natarajan proved why one should always be ready to grab their chances, for you may not know when and in which shape they will arrive. This fairytale story of Natarajan of his rise from a small village, living in a hut, to conquering Gabba is for everyone to marvel at.