Sports was in the blood of Tilak Varma. His brother is a national badminton player. His mother was an athlete during her younger age. While they played a different sport, Tilak Varma was always into cricket. He played the game in the neighbourhood. Gully cricket. Tennis Ball cricket. Bet match. You name it.
It was a usual day for Varma until he caught the eyes of his future coach Salam Bayash. Varma was playing some delightful shots at the bylanes of Chandrayangutta that day. Bayash, who was passing by, was convinced regarding Varma’s talent. He managed to talk to Varma’s family to allow him to join his coaching.
Now, it wasn’t easy for the family to afford things. Varma’s father was an electrician while his mother was a homemaker. When they explained the situation, Bayash was ready to help them out as he believed Varma had the talent. Bayash’s friend sponsored cricketing goods for some of the biggest local stars. He made him sponsor for Varma as well but under one condition, that he must make it big. Of course, Bayash was taking a risk on a nine-year-old at that time.
And those words were the push Varma needed. Legala Cricket Academy near Lingampalli Station became Varma’s home since then. He was opening the batting for his academy and wanted to become an all-rounder. He tried fast bowling in the trials which didn’t go well and then his coach changed his action and made him a spinner. It worked well for him.
During the first year, he couldn’t make it to the U-14 team. A disappointed Varma began to pile up runs in local tournaments in such a way that he couldn’t be ignored. The next year, he was named the captain of the team directly.
When things were going well, Varma realized that his bats weren’t strong enough and began to leave cracks here and there. He was shy enough to ask his coach and knew his family couldn’t afford it. Thus, he played two long years with the same bat by threading it.
He managed only 88 runs in the U14 tournament but came back stronger in the U16. In the Vijay Merchant U16 trophy, he ended with 956 runs with the best of 202*. The second-highest score on that list was 415. A performance that grabbed him sponsorship.
He then made it to the Hyderabad U19 Team. Though he couldn’t score consistently, he had a ton in the Cooch Behar Trophy and a half-century in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. An unbeaten 150+ in the Vijay Merchant Trophy that followed, helped him find a place in the Indian U19 team. He played a couple of matches in the Quadrangular series.
2018/19 was his biggest year in the U19 stage as he ended with 507 runs from eight innings with 6 sixes and a ton to his name. This helped him get into Hyderabad U23 team followed by Ranji Trophy, List A and T20 debuts.
He went on to play the U19 World Cup in 2020 where India finished as the runners-up. While his friends got into IPL, he couldn’t find his place and had to wait for his chance.
When the pandemic took over, things went worse for Varma as his father couldn’t get a regular income. He was on the verge of stopping his practice but his coach helped him out once again. He made sure that Varma continued to practice.
The efforts got translated into performances that following year where he smashed 391 runs from matches with two hundreds and a fifty in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021.
Things slowly began to change when he scored 215 runs from seven matches with a strike rate close to 148 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year.
When the IPL auction happened, Varma was in the camp for Ranji Trophy. He was on a video call with his coach while watching it with his friends in the room. When he was picked up by Mumbai Indians, his coach was in tears and his friends were overwhelmed too.
Varma’s dream is to debut for the Indian Test team. Of course, there is a long way to go but Varma certainly has the talent to get there.