Rourkela boy signs with Kolkata Knight Riders

Hockey nursery Sundargarh district in Orissa now has a cricketer to boast of with 21-year-old opening batsman Nataraj Behera entering into an agreement with Kolkata Knight Riders.

The Rourkela youngster is among the 10 selected by the Kolkata franchisee from 45 probables after a three-day trial held at Eden Gardens recently.

Known for his strokeplay, Nataraj thus became the third cricketer from Orissa to enter the Indian Premier League (IPL), after left-handed spinner Pragyan Ojha and wicketkeeper batsman Haladhar Das.

The selected lot will undergo training under coach John Buchanan in February, said CEO Joy Bhattacharya.

However, it’s yet to be decided whether Nataraj will be part of the main squad.

“We have chosen them since we saw some potential in them. There will be a talent enhancement programme in February then we will decide who stands where,” Bhattacharya said.

Nataraj first represented Orissa at the under-17 level in 2003.

He came into the spotlight making a quickfire 75 from 28 balls on debut against Jharkhand.

Nataraj then went on to represent the state at the under-19 and 22 levels and finally entered the Orissa Ranji side last year.

Nataraj has already earned reputation as a quality opening batsman and his score of 198 not out against Baroda in the under-19 tournament has so far been his career’s best innings.

He also has two centuries at the under-22 level. Natraj considers Virender Sehwag his role model and gives credit to former Orissa Ranji captain Harmohan Praharaj for helping him reach thus far.

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