Sunrirsers Hyderabad's T Natarajan has been ruled out of the 2021 IPL. ESPNcricinfo understands the left-arm fast bowler had been coping with the knee injury he picked up during the Australia tour, which has now flared up once again. The franchise has not yet decided on a replacement.
Natarajan played only two games this IPL, against the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Royal Challengers Bangalore before being replaced by Khaleel Ahmed in the Sunrisers' XI for their subsequent two matches.
On Thursday, after registering their first win of the season, Sunrisers' captain David Warner had said Natarajan had been hampered by a sore knee which needed scans, but the fast bowler would then need to quit the IPL bubble and then quarantine for seven days to re-enter.
Natarajan, 29, grabbed headlines at the 2020 IPL when he took the strike-bowling responsibility for the Sunrisers in the absence of an injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Natarajan's death bowling skills comprising a deadly yorker and change of pace gained him a ticket for the Australia tour as a net bowler initially for the white-ball segment. Natarajan ended up becoming the first Indian player to debut in all three formats on the same tour.
Natarajan then returned home to a hero's welcome, but the BCCI did not reveal he had been carrying a knee niggle from Australia. It was owing to that injury that Natarajan missed most of the T20I leg of the home series against England in February, playing only one T20I and later the final ODI.
Unfortunately for the Sunrisers, this is the second straight season they have lost a key player at the beginning of their tournament. In 2020 IPL, Mitchell Marsh became the first player in the tournament to be ruled out due to injury after he hurt his ankle during their first match. The Sunrisers then got another jolt when Kumar picked up a thigh injury in the third match of the season and had to return to India from the UAE.
The Sunrisers now have Kumar, Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi and allrounder Jason Holder in their fast bowling reserves.