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RCB’s new replacement is the busiest man in world cricket

The uncertainty caused by the pandemic has worked both ways in Tim David’s life. If the 25-year-old cricketer from Singapore was grounded at home through most of 2020 because of the outbreak, this year has seen him bag his first IPL contract in a remarkable turn of events.

The T20 power hitter will now be looking to carry his six-hitting form from the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to the IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore, becoming the first player from Singapore to feature in the league.

“It’s nice to be representing a lot of the associate players and showing that a player not from Test playing nations can do really good things at a higher level of cricket,” David said speaking from St Kitts on the eve of the CPL final, where he is playing for St Lucia Kings.

Nine months, eight tournaments, six geographical locations—that’s what 2021 has been like for the man proudly carrying his tiny “associate nations” flag to franchise cricket around the world. He may just be the busiest cricketer in the world right now.

This has been a bizarre and breathless year for the man who learnt most of his cricket in Perth, but could only go as far as making the Western Australia second team during his time there. David shifted back to play for Singapore instead (his Australian father Rod played for Singapore too). From there, he slowly began to build a reputation as a big hitter. But it’s only this year, after a smashing season for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League in December and January that his career soared. Immediately after the Big Bash, he got called up to the Pakistan Super League as a last-minute replacement. From there he went to the Netherlands to play club cricket, got called up by Surrey in England to play two T20 games as an injury replacement and ended up being picked for one-dayers as well. Then he got picked at the last minute for The Hundred, where he played in the final and won.

“A day after the final, I took a plan to play in the CPL,” David said. “The whole of last year I was sitting at home doing nothing. Then, it all snowballed a bit. The Covid this year opened up a lot of opportunities. It’s been a long time on the road, but I am grateful.”

Missing players

Unlikely names like David have been crucial for the IPL’s second half, set to resume September 19 in the UAE, after players from various countries announced their unavailability for the tournament, citing various reasons, including bio-bubble fatigue and clashing dates with other tournaments.

The latest stars to pull out were England’s Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan, all players who were part of the England Test squad during India’s recent tour, where the fifth and final match was cancelled on September 10.

This means Sunrisers Hyderabad will miss their finest opener (Bairstow), Punjab Kings will miss the world’s No 1 ranked T20 batter (Malan) and Delhi Capitals their fearsome fast bowler.

The team worst hit by withdrawals—certainly by volume—is RCB, who will be without Kiwi skipper Kane Richardson, as well as Australians Adam Zampa, Finn Allen and Daniel Sams.

Other stars who will be sorely missed? Pat Cummins for Kolkata Knight Riders and Jhye Richardson for Punjab and Ben Stokes for Rajasthan Royals.

No wonder teams have scrambled for replacements. RCB have brought in Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and pacer Dushmantha Chameera in Zampa and Sams’ place respectively. While rising English all-rounder George Garton, who David played with in Surrey and in The Hundred this year, replaced Richardson. David came in as Allen’s replacement. This is the first IPL for all these players (Chameera has been part of the Rajasthan Royals squad earlier, but has never played a match).

In other teams too, most replacement players are IPL newbies—this includes New Zealand keeper Glenn Phillips, who will fill in for Jos Buttler for RR, and who smashed a 46-ball century against West Indies in November last year, the fastest by a Kiwi in T20Is; and Australia’s Nathan Ellis, brought in for Jhye Richardson by Punjab, who is the first cricketer to take a hattrick on T20I debut, which he did in August against Bangladesh.

David’s mission

David is coveted because of his power game. Standing deep in his crease with his high back-lift, he scores at a reckless pace, and often provides the final flourish. His strike rates across recent tournaments read like this – 153 at the Big Bash, 167 at PSL, 136 at T20 Blast, 150 at RLC ODI’s, 250 at the solitary Hundred game, followed by 149 in the CPL (till semis).

“Power hitting has become a focus for me in the past couple of years,” he said while promoting team sponsors Indibet. “I wasn’t playing much first-class cricket in Australia. So, I looked for a role that would get me to play professional cricket. I bat in the middle-order in T20 cricket and specialize in those skills a little bit. I have been improving with every outing.

“Playing for Singapore has also helped me to play spin quite well because we play on a lot of spin- friendly wickets in Asia. That has been a big part of my development,” he added.

It’s something RCB will need. The team was in good shape in the first half of the IPL in India which got suspended, winning five matches out of seven. With so many new faces in the squad it will be a challenge for the Bangalore team to keep that momentum going.

Perhaps the thrill of playing with the biggest names in the game will inspire something special from the IPL’s newest names.

“AB De Villers and Virat Kohli are two of the best batters in the world and to be able to learn first-hand from them will be awesome,” David said. “To play in the IPL has been something I have always aspired to. I am really excited to go there for the first time. I am going to keep my ears to the ground and try and soak up as much as I can. If I get a chance to play, I will try to do exactly what I do every time I play.”

Which is to say, hit the ball out of the park.

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Desk Team