Editor's Note: As the anticipation for IPL 2020 gathers steam, a bunch of cricketers recall their IPL debuts for our latest series, My First IPL Match. Over the next few days, you'll read tales of unexpected joy and nervous expectations from these sportsmen. Some of these interviews were published earlier this year; they are being republished as we build towards the marquee event.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has cricket at its heart but it's surrounded with glitz, glamour and money. Every action-packed edition of the carnival not only satiates the hunger of cricket junkies but also brings along the opportunity for many to turn their dreams into reality. Players rise from obscurity to stardom on the IPL's platform. Rags to riches stories are scripted with players not only gaining our attention but also winning our hearts.
But once in a while there are youngsters who enter the arena of the most popular T20 league with their reputation preceding them. It was the same for Shivam Mavi.
With his searing pace, ability to swing the ball at high speed and a potent bouncer, Mavi had helped India clinch their record fourth Under-19 World Cup title in 2018. The fast bowler from Uttar Pradesh finished the tournament with nine wickets which came at an impressive average of 18.89.
In the auction for the 2018 edition of IPL, that took place during the U-19 World Cup, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) snapped up the young pacer for a whopping Rs 3 crore for his ability to constantly clock 145 kmph.
Now it was just a wait of a few more months before Mavi had the opportunity to showcase his talent in the most followed franchise tournament in cricket. That wait was stretched a bit more with KKR boasting Mitchell Johnson, Andre Russell and Vinay Kumar in their ranks. The D-Day finally came on 14th April against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Mavi was set for a debut at home in KKR's third match of the season.
On a day that was expected to be nondescript as the previous ones, the information of Mavi's impending debut was relayed to him by head coach and legendary Jacques Kallis and assistant coach Simon Katich, a day ahead of the match during the team's training session.
"I knew a day before Sunrisers match that I would be making my IPL debut," Mavi tells Firstpost. "Jacques Kallis and Simon Katich sir informed me during the nets."
From there on, it was about preparing for the big game. KKR were under the pump after losing the previous match against Chennai Super Kings. For Mavi it was going to be a momentous occasion. Senior teammates Johnson and Russell took the lead in preparing the youngster for it.
"Mitchell Johnson and Andre Russell came to me to speak to me ahead of the debut match to help me release the pressure. They were cracking jokes with me. They spoke to me before the match and during it as well. They kept guiding me about how I should bowl in a given situation," says Mavi.
Although, when you speak with the young fast bowler, it seems like he would not have required much preparation. The pressure of mega money riding on your name could get to any player let alone an upcoming cricketer, but Mavi seemed very sorted in that department. He knows good cricket is root of all the money and fame.
The time he spent with his former coach Rahul Dravid seems to have served him well.
"I never felt the pressure of the money that KKR had spent on me. I never think of things like that. I didn't think about it on my debut as well. My focus is always on the cricket. It's easy to get distracted when you lack experience but mental aspect plays a major role in cricket and if you can keep your focus away from money, it will be of great help," shares the 21-year-old cricketer.
What did got Mavi anxious to an extent was the wait to get the ball in his hands on debut.
"Kallis sir gave me the cap before the match. His instructions were pretty simple. He told me to go out and enjoy the game. He said process is more important and I must look to implement on pitch what I have practised," recounts Mavi.
KKR batted first and posted 138/8 with Mavi being the last to get out on the last ball of the innings. In reply, KKR went with experience to defend the modest total.
Mavi only got to roll his arms in the 15th over. He gave away 10 runs and was hit for a six by Kane Williamson. That was to be end of his bowling on the night.
Understandably, it wasn't a performance to remember for long for the pacer as his team lost the match.
"The wait was long. Even the ball came very late to me, so there was some anxiety but I had prepared for it."
The most memorable moment for Mavi comes from his second IPL match when he cleaned bowled the then Delhi Daredevils captain Gautam Gambhir.
"Next match, I got to bowl from the start and I picked up the wicket of Delhi Daredevils' captain Gautam Gambhir. That's the most memorable moment for me from IPL," says Mavi.
After his debut, Mavi went on to play eight more matches in the league before missing the 2019 edition due to a back injury. And while he didn't have the most memorable debut, what lives in his memory is the experience of playing in front of packed Eden Gardens. He played in front of big crowds in the U-19 World Cup but the first experience of it on that night was quite unique.
"It was an amazing experience to play in front of 50-55,000 people. That feeling of playing in front of such a big crowd, when they cheer for you is great experience."
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