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Jhathavedh’s journey from Hong Kong to TN(PL), via UK and Hyderabad

He was born in Hong Kong. He studied economics in the UK. He moved to Chennai in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic because of one strong connecting thread: cricket. Meet 23-year-old Jhathavedh Subramanyan, now the breakout star of TNPL 2023.

With his parents in the stands in Tirunelveli and elder brother watching from Hong Kong around midnight, Jhathavedh burst through Sonu Yadav’s defences with a big-turning wrong’un and went onto spin Lyca Kovai Kings to the TNPL title. He can also bowl left-arm fingerspin, though he didn’t dip into his ambidextrous skills during the tournament. Earlier, during a first-class game for Durham University against Northamptonshire, he did bowl some left-arm fingerspin.

The right-arm version of Jhathavedh has an angular run-up like Ravi Bishnoi, but his bowling style involves liberally tossing the ball up and taking it away from the reach of right-handers, like Yuzvendra Chahal does in T20 cricket. Jhathavedh took 4 for 21 in the TNPL final last weekend and overall 11 wickets in nine games at an average of 19.72 and economy rate of 6.57. His economy rate was the third best – behind his Kovai team-mate M Siddharth (5.61) and Dindigul Dragons’ Varun Chakravarthy (6.52) – among bowlers who had bowled at least 30 overs in TNPL 2023.

Jhathavedh had been Varun’s understudy at Madurai Panthers for two years, after having moved from Hong Kong, but he didn’t get a game at Madurai. Ahead of the TNPL 2023 auction, Kovai captain Shahrukh Khan was impressed with what he saw of Jhathavedh at the Vijay CC (Cricket Club) nets and then bid for him at the auction. Jhathavedh emerged as the latest find of the TNPL and could potentially be on the IPL radar now.

“I didn’t really get a chance to play in Madurai, but I had the opportunity to interact with amazing cricketers,” Jhathavedh tells ESPNcricinfo. “Having Varun Chakravarthy is great and he’s also a legspinner/mystery spinner. Shahrukh backed me from the first game at Lyca and it was amazing to be a part of that group. We gelled together as a group and we’re really good friends off the field as well, and that was probably the secret to us doing well.

“My role in this Lyca team was to go with a positive mindset and to look for wickets. So, it was really good in the finals that I got four wickets and almost five. It was really good that I was able to contribute in that manner. And even when the wickets were not coming, I was able to keep the economy rate low, so wickets would’ve fallen on the other end. Generally, my role in the TNPL was to look to spin the ball hard, be positive and go for wickets.”

Even before he had made his TNPL debut and just months after he had settled down in Chennai, Jhathavedh had an opportunity to pick the brains of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman at the Sunrisers Hyderabad nets in the UAE in 2021.

“I turned 22 on the UAE tour with SRH,” Jhathavedh recalls. “I had cake being smashed on my face then. I interacted with quite a few cricketers there and to have that opportunity is cool. With Rashid and Mujeeb around, I learnt bowling with certain grips and certain balls. It’s a subtle thing but each person will absorb the lessons in his own way.”

Jhathavedh can hit the pitch with his fast googlies and can also cut his pace down to 75kph with his loopy legbreaks. It’s because of these varied skills that Shahrukh backed him to bowl to the big-hitters. Jhathavedh credits former India legspinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan and former India analyst S Ramky for fine-tuning his bowling action. Even when Jhathavedh was living in Hong Kong, he used to visit Chennai during his summer holidays to train with Sivaramakrishnan.

“I actually first met LS sir in 2016. LS sir and Ramky sir from Sports Mechanics have really helped me, in terms of my bowling,” Jhathavedh says. “LS sir’s approach to coaching and legspin bowling is very different to what I was used to in the past. He has a big emphasis on the action, so he works backwards, starting from the balance in the delivery stride and then going back step-by-step to your run-up and everything. Luckily, I was a side-on bowler as well and he used to be a side-on bowler as well.

“The big focus on the action really helps. The usage of front arm and the hip drive helps in the control of the pace. If you want to bowl quicker then, for me it’s pulling the front arm down a bit harder and then if you want to bowl slower then… if you don’t pull it down as hard then your bowling arm also won’t go as fast. So, that sort of helps with speed control but it varies from bowler to bowler.”

Jhathavedh had recently completed his masters in Banking and Finance from London’s King’s College, but he insists that working his way up the Tamil Nadu ladder is his priority now. He hopes to emulate Varun, who has successfully graduated from the TNPL to Tamil Nadu and then IPL but doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself.

“It depends on what the selectors and the people in positions decide (laughs). It would be nice to progress forwards, as other individuals have done through the TNPL,” Jhathavedh says. “But I don’t want to think about it too much because it can affect my performance. When I get the ball, I just want to bowl as well as possible.

“But like Varun Chakravarthy, for example, and even [G] Ajitesh last year; he got into the state side after doing well in the TNPL. That is there, but I just want to concentrate on my bowling and my first division game for Grand Slam starts tomorrow in the Chennai league. The whole point of me coming here it to enjoy my cricket as much as possible. As long as I’m enjoying it, I’m on the right path.”

From Hong Kong with love for cricket, Jhathavedh has embraced his journey and is ready to go wherever the game takes him.

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