The left-handed Rana knocked the stuffings out of Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) bowling attack by blitzing 7 sixes in Indore last night (April 20).
Thanks to the 23-year-old's belligerent batting and Jos Buttler's superlative 37-ball 77 (3x4, 5x6), MI chased down 199 in 15.3 overs. KXIP opener Hashim Amla's outstanding century (104) went in vain. (Scorecard)
Rana, MI's number three batsman, blasted 62 not out off 34. His innings was special, with no fours but only sixes. His aggressive strokeplay was praised by former cricketers and fans. (Match highlights)
So far in IPL 2017, he has constructed 3 half centuries with a highest of 62 not out.
Rana has left behind big hitters like Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Kieron Pollard and others to take the number one spot in six-hitting list. He has smashed 16 sixes in 6 innings. McCullum of Gujarat Lions (GL) is 2nd with 15.
He is the current Orange Cap holder (as on April 20, 2017) with 255 runs with 3 fifties. He has hit more sixes (16) than fours (14) so far. Yesterday he surpassed Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) captain David Warner (239 runs) to top the batting charts. His strike rate is 142.45 and averages 51.00.
Rana has been impressive for Delhi in the domestic season. He and Gautam Gambhir play for the same club. Rana had spoken of the help he got from his senior team-mate Gambhir in Delhi.
"After my last Ranji (Trophy) match, just before I was dropped, I spoke to Gambhir. He cleared a lot of things as he has seen me for more than 10 years being from the same club. Then I checked with Mahela Jayawardene Sir and Sachin Tendulkar Sir and they told me the same thing. Slowly I adopted those points in my game and luckily it has worked for me," Rana had said on April 12 after helping MI defeat SRH.
The youngster had admitted that he was "disturbed mentally" in recent times after being dropped from Delhi Ranji Trophy team.
"I was very disturbed mentally, (because) I had put myself under pressure by thinking too much. I was not able to play my natural game; I was not able to enjoy the game. After getting out couple of times I had gone into a shell. After coming here (Mumbai Indians), my mind became clearer. My practice game was good and I did fine in the practice match and gradually it all came back," Rana explained during IPL 2017.
In 2015's IPL Players Auction, Rana was bought by MI for Rs 10 lakh. He played 4 matches in IPL 2016 scoring 104 runs with a highest of 70. In those 4 games he had hit 7 fours and 8 sixes.
Gambhir has always backed Rana. Last night after the match, he tweeted, in reply to former England spinner Monty Panesar, that Rana was "special".
"@NitishRanaOffi1 is @GautamGambhir find.Both come frm d same club in Delhi. Well done GG, u may hav given us a star @mipaltan @ipl @SonySIX," Panesar wrote.
Gambhir replied, "Thanks @MontyPanesar. Yeah mate Nitish is indeed special but needs to keep working hard @IPL @KKRiders."
On April 9, against Gambhir's Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Rana had scored a 29-ball 50 (5x4, 3x6) as MI won chasing 179 with 4 wickets and 1 ball to spare.
Rana is definitely in the running to claim the "Emerging Player Award". Those born after April 1, 1991 are eligible. Rana was born on December 27, 1993.
"This award will be given by BCCI to the player who has best demonstrated, through his performances during the season, his potential to be a future star of international cricket," BCCI said.
Rana certainly has the potential to be a future star in international cricket.