IPL – Who is Naman Dhir, Mumbai Indians’ new No. 3?

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Mumbai Indians have played some of the most iconic T20 batters at No. 3 over the years, from Suryakumar Yadav to Rohit Sharma to Cameron Green. On Sunday night against Gujarat Titans, out walked Naman Dhir at No. 3 when Ishan Kishan fell in the first over of the chase of 169.

It was just the sixth T20 game of Dhar’s professional career and he is yet to play a 50-over game in domestic cricket. What was he doing in the IPL then for the five-time champions?

Bought for INR 20 lakh at the last auction, Dhir is the latest unknown entity from MI’s scouting stable. He is 24, a hard-hitting batter from Punjab. Known for hitting big sixes down the ground, his four T20 innings before this had earned him just 39 runs since his T20 debut a few months ago in November, with a high score of 17. For Punjab too, he has mostly batted at No. 3 in his fledgling career so far. In the Ranji Trophy, he has two centuries from 20 innings – both from last season – from 14 games for an average of 30.21.

It was in the Sher-e-Punjab T20 Cup – a state T20 league organised by the Punjab Cricket Association – in August last year that he made himself noticed with his hitting exploits. In 12 innings in that tournament, Dhir smashed 466 runs (second-highest) at a strike rate of 192.56 while averaging 42.36. He scored two centuries along the way – 127 off 56 and 105 off 44 – which included a total of 30 sixes.

On Sunday, he smoked three back-to-back fours against Afghanistan’s Azmatullah Omarzai and a six in the same over. Dhir lofted the first ball of the third over over mid-off, the second over midwicket and the third (after a wide) for a one-bounce four to the square-leg boundary. A dot ball later, Dhir clobbered a half-volley over long-off for an 86-meter six. Omarzai, however, fought back on the last ball of the over by trapping Dhir lbw with the help of a review.

Mumbai would have thought Dhir did his job with a 10-ball 20, but they eventually fell short by just six runs in the end.

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