You’re bound to stand out if you’re the tallest member in a large team huddle involving the six-and-a-half feet Kieron Pollard. But Marco Jansen also stood out for what he placed on top of that 6ft 8inch frame while in that huddle: a Mumbai Indians cap handed by captain Rohit Sharma on Friday.
The 20-year-old left-arm South African fast bowler, picked up at his base price of R20 lakh at the 2021 IPL mini auction, was straightaway drafted into the playing XI by MI for their opening IPL-14 encounter against Royal Challengers Bangalore. .
Before Friday, the closest Jansen had come to experiencing Indian cricket was when he touched the country as part of the South Africa A squad in 2019 and as a net bowler at the Wanderers before India’s 2018 Johannesburg Test against South Africa. One of the batsmen he bowled to in there was Virat Kohli; three years later he was bowling to the same player in a set up more competitive than a friendly net session — an IPL match. Kohli welcomed Jansen with a boundary, a pull off his first ball dragged too short. The left-arm pacer went for 13 in his first over but managed to push the speed clocks above 140kmph. He returned in his third over to remove the set Glenn Maxwell off a slower ball and Shahbaz Ahmed in the 15th over of the RCB innings to show why the MI think-tank decided to throw the youngster in the deep end of the pool.
Jansen has played 14 first-class matches in South Africa, picking up 54 wickets playing for the Warriors. In their recent four-day domestic season, Jansen accounted for 23 scalps from six outings. It earned him a spot in the Proteas’ 21-member squad that toured Pakistan for a two-Test series in January, and although the youngster didn’t get a game, it was enough indication of his promise.
“Marco has been a very highly-rated bowler in South Africa,” Zaheer Khan, MI’s director of cricket operations, said in the team’s YouTube channel after the franchise roped him in without burning a bigger hole in their pocket at the IPL operations. “I was surprised to see him go at such a low price. We were expecting some bidding war around that. ”
It wasn’t an unexpected lottery. Jansen had been on MI’s radar for the last three years with the franchise’s vast network keeping a close eye on the South African. “We have monitored him for the last three years. Then he was a 17-18 year old. We kept monitoring him and picked him the same time he was picked for South Africa, ”MI head coach Mahela Jayawardene said in an interview.
Jansen has a twin brother, Duan, who is also a tall left-arm pacer. Their father Koos is a former rugby player in South Africa. Like most young rookies getting their first taste in IPL, Jansen was eager to pick up the nuances of the trade from the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult. “It’s not every day that a youngster who is 20 years old gets picked in the IPL,” he was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
Make that gets picked in MI’s first game of a new IPL season.