In a sport as competitive as cricket and a world as demanding as ours, it is not common to see a 29-year-old making his debut for the country. 

29 is the age when players start looking back at whatever they have done for the nation, with an aim to further improve their performance. 

Then enters someone like T Natarajan, who is not just shattering all those notions but doing it with grace that we seldom get to witness. 

In what can be easily be declared as the best year for him as a professional cricketer, Tamil Nadu-lad Natarajan is currently riding high on the success of IPL and his dream ODI debut against Australia.

In the Indian Premier League, the left-arm pacer took many important wickets, inspired awe in legends like Kapil Dev, and returned with an enviable tally of 16 wickets in 16 matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad. 

This instantly brought him into the limelight and under direct scrutiny of the selectors who were guaging options for the then upcoming tour of Australia. 

Lo and behold, Natarajan got his call-up. He was named as the replacement for Varun Chakravarthy in the T20Is but got to perform before that because Mohammad Shami was rested in the 3rd and the final; ODI of the series. 

That was the only ODI India won.

From there the team moved on to the T20Is, two of which they won back-to-back, to seal the series. Natarajan took 3 and 2 wickets in those matches, respectively. 

He has already been declared ‘the find of the series’ and hopefully only has good things coming his way. 

Because it’s long overdue. 

Natarajan comes from a humble background, and has had to struggle for most of his life. Of course, now the things seem to be changing but there was a time when his family couldn’t even afford pencils and notebooks for school. 

His father – a construction worker – and mother – a road-side snack seller, did their best to raise their 5 kids in a village named Chinnappampatti in Tamil Nadu. 

But as you can imagine, it was tough. And as the eldest of the 5 siblings, Natarajan had a huge responsibility on his shoulders. 

That didn’t stop him from dreaming, though. he wanted to make it to the national team and for that, did everything in his capacity. 

He played with tennis balls, kept his head down and just worked. 

And it paid off when he got his first call-up for TNCA 4th division cricket. From there on, there was no looking back as he soon went on to make his first-class debut, IPL debut and then Indian debut. 

There were a few riders on his way, yes, but he overcame all of them. In 2015, he was reported for suspect action, so Natarajan went back, corrected it, and returned stronger than ever.

His biggest professional support, who he also refers to as ‘godfather’, Jayaprakash, saw him through all this, and to honour him, Natarajan wore a jersey bearing the name ‘JP Nattu’ in the IPL.

As the pacer sees new heights with each match that he plays, he has decided to give back to his community and has already started a cricket academy near his village. 

This will definitely make things easier for the likes of him and it’s a step that could have only been taken by someone who knows what struggle truly means.

In sports, one finds many stories of determination and that is half the beauty of it. The other half comes from players’ on-field exploits and we can’t wait to see what Natarajan does next. Here’s to the ones who dream.