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IPL 2024: Big-hitting Sameer Rizvi shines briefly but brightly with a little help from idol Dhoni

On Tuesday, Sameer Rizvi walked in to bat, for the first time in his Indian Premier League (IPL) career, on the third ball of the penultimate over and took guard to face Gujarat Titans’ Rashid Khan. Chennai Super Kings was 184 for four, having just lost half-centurion Shivam Dube.

Off his first ball, Rizvi bent his knee and slog swept Rashid for a six, and two balls later, he came down the track and hit the ball over long-off for another maximum.

“Rashid Khan came in to bowl in the 19th over, so the coach (Stephen Fleming) said that if a wicket falls then I’ll go,” Rizvi recalled during a select media interaction on Thursday. “So, my mind was clear that I’ll go and hit.” 

ALSO READ | CSK steps away from spin formula to master Gujarat Titans at Chepauk

The 20-year-old is one of the strongest players of spin on the domestic circuit currently. “If they (CSK management) have watched me play then they must have watched me play the spinners well. Here (CSK) also I played the spinners well in the nets,” Rizvi said.

For his development, Rizvi credits his maternal uncle, Tankeeb Akhtar, who trained him since his childhood. “My mama is a coach and he used to have a summer camp in the mornings. So, I too joined a lot of camps during the summer breaks,” he said.

“He used to train me with tennis balls. He used to ask me to hit the ball over the 30-yard circle and if it lands outside then it is six. So, that’s how it began when I was a child,” the youngster recalled.

Rizvi was bought by Super Kings during the recently held IPL auction for a whopping Rs. 8.4 crore on the back of a stellar performance in domestic cricket, especially in the UP T20 League held in August and September last year.

In that league, he scored 455 runs in nine innings, including two hundreds, for Kanpur Superstars. Rizvi also offered a glimpse of his big-hitting potential in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), where he smashed 18 sixes, hitting one every 11 balls he faced.

“The (UP T20) league began at the start of the season so it was good for exposure and confidence, and it helped a lot in (IPL) auction. It was helpful for not only me but for a lot of boys who played the season, performed and people got to know them. Whoever performed in that league had a good season.”

Rizvi made his IPL debut in the opening match of the tournament, against Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB), but didn’t get to bat in that game. However, that worked in his favour as he was able to calm his nerves by the second game.

ALSO READ | ‘Sometimes I wonder if IPL is even cricket,’ says Ashwin

“I got used to the crowd once I fielded (in the first match) so I didn’t feel the pressure by the second match,” he said.

Rizvi’s jitters were also allayed by his idol MS Dhoni, who talked to him about his hefty price tag and advised him to play naturally.

“MS (Dhoni) Bhaiya told me to look to perform and not think about the price tag. That everyone has different price tags: some have more than you and some have less. [The] main thing is how I perform and how I handle the pressure.”

Now that he’s living his dream of playing with Bhaiya (MS Dhoni), Rizvi is “thankful to everyone in my family that they trusted me that I’ll do something in cricket”.

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