Chennai, India: Akash Madhwal was working as an engineer and playing tennis-ball cricket just a few years ago – now he is in the Indian Premier League record books.
The 29-year-old fast bowler returned stunning figures of 5-5 in the play-offs to lead five-time champions Mumbai Indians to victory over Lucknow Super Giants on Wednesday.
Mumbai will face Gujarat Titans today for a place in Sunday’s final against Chennai Super Kings.
With Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer both out injured, the previously unheralded Madhwal has grabbed his chance to shine.
He joined Mumbai last year as an injury replacement but remained confined to playing practice matches, before skipper Rohit Sharma introduced him to the big stage this season.
“The team has given me the responsibility so I am trying to do it,” Madhwal told reporters after his man-of-the-match performance.
“It’s not that I can take his (Bumrah’s) place, but whatever I can do in my capacity, I am doing.”
Madhwal’s route into IPL folklore – the first to take a five-wicket haul in the play-offs – came by way of an unusual path.
He was working as a civil engineer when he quit a steady job and joined his state team, before the IPL came calling.
“Cricket is my passion and not a burden,” he said. “So I am enjoying cricket after leaving engineering and a job to follow my passion without having much at home.”
Madhwal is also a product of tennis-ball cricket, a variant of the sport using tennis balls.
It is popular among budding cricketers across India and Madhwal said it played a part in his breakout display.
“I have learnt to bowl yorkers in tennis-ball cricket and I try to implement that (here) because that’s the only ball to save yourself (from getting hit for runs),” said Madhwal, who hails from the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.
“My strength is my yorker and bhaiyya (“brother” Rohit) used me where my strength lies and where the team needs me.”
His feat on Wednesday came on the back of 4-37 against Sunrisers Hyderabad .
Standing at 1.75 metres (five feet and nine inches), Madhwal is not your usual tall and burly fast bowler, but his accuracy and grit more than makes up for the lack of size.
“We knew what he had, and we needed somebody to bowl at the back end,” said Rohit. “Having seen him, I was confident he could get the job done for us.”
Mumbai Indians' Akash Madhwal prepares to catch a ball during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 eliminator cricket match between Lucknow Super Giants and Mumbai Indians at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on May 24, 2023. (AFP)