When you hear that Shivam Mavi –the India Under-19 fast bowler, who swings the ball in—plays for Uttar Pradesh, you may be forgiven if you think he is from Meerut. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Praveen Kumar have made Meerut famous for more than cricket equipment. The ground, Victoria Park, where the two swing bowlers honed their craft under the same coach, is now the hotbed for young bowlers who want to swing the ball. But Mavi is part of fast bowling nursery from a different part of the state.
Mavi trains at Delhi Wanderers Cricket Academy in Nodia, run by Phoolchand Sharma. “Since the last 10 years Shivam has been with me”, he says. He describes Mavi as confident but reticent player, who rarely says much but for whom cricket is everything. “Even when he was injured, Shivam would come to the ground, even if he just sat there the whole day.”
It’s not hard to see why; Delhi Wanderers is a wellspring of fast-bowling talent, having produced players like Parwinder Awana (best remembered for a Champions League T20 hat-trick against Chennai Super Kings), Sudeep Tyagi (whose ODI debut match was abandoned due to a dangerous pitch) and Anureet Singh (Kings XI Punjab and Indian Railways regular). The three regularly train there, and between them, have more than 500 First Class wickets. For the now 19-year-old Shivam, it was the perfect breeding ground; growing up as part of a ‘fast bowler’s cartel’.
“I’ve seen Shivam from a very young age”, said Anureet, who has been a mentor to the youngster, often passing on shoes, kit and the like. “He is always asking questions and is quick to follow the advice we give.”
The name and location of the academy fits nicely with the theme of Shivam’s early cricketing career. Noida is sandwiched between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, and it was in Delhi that Shivam first tried to win the lottery that is Indian cricket. After spenidng his Under-14 days there, his coach felt he would get more chances east, and Mavi entered the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association system.
Being in the company of bowlers who were already playing First Class cricket helped fast track Mavi’s development, as did his 5’10’’ frame. He was picked in the Board President’s XI Under-19 squad to face the visiting England team early this year, and returned with figures of 3 for 47. It earned him a spot in the India Under-19 XI for two games in that series, where he bagged a two wickets apiece.
But his breakthrough tour came when India travelled to England in July this year. He combined with Kamlesh Nagarkoti to decimate the English in the Youth Tests: in the first match, the duo picked up 16 of the 20 wickets, Mavi scalping six. He also contributed with an unbeaten 41 and 86 not out, in the same game and finished with 15 wickets in six games on that tour.
He followed it up by showing he can also take wickets in Indian conditions. In the Challenger Trophy in Mumbai, held just before the Indian team was picked, Mavi finished joint highest wicket taker, with nine scalps. Even on batting friendly pitches, he extracted good pace and carry, beating the batsmen with movement as much as extra bounce, and maintaining good pace throughout his spells.
“His fitness is his biggest strength”, said Anureet. “We all train together, and at our academy, we believe in old fashioned hard work. At the same time, he is a smart cricketer also, and rests when he knows he should be resting.”
Mavi gained another advantage growing up in Noida: proximity to the Afghanistan cricket team, for whom the Greater Noida Stadium is home ground. Mavi got to rub shoulders with and learn from some of the Afghanistani fast bowlers, as well as test himself against their batsmen. “(Afghanistan coach) Lalchand Rajput is a good friend of mine”, said Sharma, “and Shivam has often bowled in the Afghanistan nets. He has even played practice matches against them and done well.”
Mavi’s slightly open-chested action lends itself to bringing the ball into the right-hander. But he is most dangerous when pitching the ball up and getting it to move, threatening the inside edge of the right-handers, and the outside edge of lefties. Having tasted success in England, Mavi knows the lengths and lines required when there is a little bit of movement on offer, as there is likely to be in New Zealand. “From early on, there has been a maturity in him. He knows where he needs to bowl”, said Anureet.
Now Mavi has a chance to make waves with another fast-bowler’s cartel. He, Ishan Porel, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, and left armer Arshdeep Singh, have the goods to brand themselves the best fast bowling attack in the World Cup. And it won’t be surprising to hear another –albeit different— success story of a swing bowler from Uttar Pradesh.