Who Is Abhinav Manohar?
Jack Hope looks at a player making his debut in the 2022 IPL.
This is the first of what I think will be a series of articles on players who have been picked up for their first IPL. This one is on Abhinav Manohar, a right handed batter, bought by the Ahmedabad Boys (Gujarat Titans) for 2.6 crore. Hope you enjoy it, and if you have a player you think I should cover, let me know on Twitter @JackHope0
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The question on everyone’s lips going into the auction was: “Ahmedabad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when the auction comes for you?”
The answer: spend 70% of their purse on six players, panic that they had no depth, and then buy a smorgasbord of marginal players like Vijay Shankar and David Miller.
In that mayhem, though, were a couple of really intriguing picks. One of which, Abhinav Manohar, has a real chance to be this year’s zero-to-hero feel good story of the IPL (see Venkatesh Iyer in 2021). A staple narrative of the IPL, and one of the joys of the tournament.
And this is a proper zero-to-hero story, as until about 4 months ago Abhinav Manohar wasn’t even playing for his state side, Karnataka. Sure COVID has significantly disrupted the domestic calendar in India, but Manohar’s ascent to the IPL has been truly stratospheric.
That isn’t to say that nobody had noticed his talent and tenaciousness, as Manohar’s coach from youth cricket, Irfan Sait, recalls: “Our academy played a practice match against the Hyderabad state U-14 team. A ball hit him in the forehead, he was bleeding. We took him to the hospital; he got a couple of stitches. Deep down in my heart, I was sure he was never coming back. The next day, he was there, and scored a brilliant century. If you ask me, that was the turning point in his cricketing career,”
A glowing appraisal for a young player, making it sound like Manohar’s rise was inevitable. However, all is not as it seems, the shocking thing is that the match in question took place in 2006, 15 years ago.
In the intervening decade and a half Manohar has seen his first cousin leave to play cricket in Europe (she know turns out for the German international side), his Dad experience financial difficulty, found himself stuck behind the likes of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey in the Karnataka food chain, battled weight issues, before finally getting his chance in the preliminary quarter final of the 2021/22 Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy.
But when he finally got there, he wasn’t messing about. Ascending into the side to fill the space of players on India duty, he smashed a match winning 70, top scoring and shepherding the lower order to the target with a ball to spare. Scores of 19 and 27 followed, in the quarter-final and semi-final, before he made 46 in the final. A score which helped Karnataka to a score of 151, within a whisker of victory, before Shahrukh Khan snatched it away with a last ball 6.
That, for now, is pretty much really all we have to go on. From not in the state side, via four innings in the later stages of the 2021/22 SMA trophy, to a 2.6 crore IPL contract. You HAVE to love that arc.
What’s even better about this story is that we probably will see him walk into the Bad Boys’ starting XI. In fact ESPN’s first glance theoretical XI had him down as their likely opening day number 5. The position he batted for Karnataka and a role, as well regarded player of spin, he might be well suited for. Indeed, Manohar himself talked about this after his innings in the SMA preliminary quarter final, saying: "I was waiting for the spinners to be brought into the attack because my strength is playing spin. So, when they came on I took my chances and they paid off”
Spending 2.6 crore on a 27 year old batter, with 6 appearances at state level (across all formats!), is questionable decision making. That aside, you cannot look at Manohar’s story and avoid getting caught up in the giddiness of such a stratospheric rise. I really want to see it work out.