During Kolkata Knight Rider's (KKR) patchy campaign in this ongoing eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the 24-year old middle-order batsman Nitish Rana has emerged as a shining star. Following his productive season with Mumbai Indians (333 runs in 13 matches at 30.27) last year the Delhi boy fetched 3.4 Crore in this year’s auction and thus far, the youngster has justified every single penny the franchise has spent on him.

With bat in hand, Rana so far has 163 runs in six games at an average of 33 and strike-rate of 135.24. After Dinesh Karthik and Chris Lynn, he has been the third highest run-getter for his side. Additionally, his part-time off-spin has come handy in giving breakthroughs at crucial junctures. So, far in the season KKR have won three matches and on two occasions Rana had walked away with ‘Man of the Match’ award.

Batting mostly at No. 4, Rana has shown maturity beyond age and adjusted his game according to the match situation. His role is very delicate in this KKR line-up. In case of couple of early wickets, he will come out and play the role of a sheet-anchor. However, when the team needs quick runs, Rana is well capable of changing gears.

In this KKR batting line-up, Rana’s calmness at the crease has been a perfect foil to the flamboyance of Andre Russell, Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Karthik.

Basically, he has been asked to play the role which Manish Pandey used to play for KKR in previous seasons and according to KKR head-coach Jacques Kallis, Rana hasn’t let the team down.

“We had given him a message that he will be a settled member in the side and he just needs to showcase his talent. We are backing him 100 per cent and certainly it has paid off,” Kallis said in a recent media interaction.

Last year, batting at No. 3 for Mumbai, Rana smashed a 29-ball 50 to help his team to secure a four-wicket win over KKR. That was the point when Kallis and Co. identified his talent and paid a handsome amount to secure his service in this year’s auction. And so far, Rana has been a consistent performer.

“He played well against us in Mumbai. We had heard some good things about him but perhaps didn't get as many games for MI as he would have liked. He certainly has got a bright future with KKR,” the former South African all-rounder further added.

The youngster seems like very organised batsman. Like any typical modern-day limited-overs’ player, he too has a calm head and enjoys performing under pressure. Furthermore, he has the technique and gameplan to tackle seam and spin with equal prowess, which is very important aspect for a middle-order batsman. Against pace, he plays the horizontal bat shots really proficiently and from his feet movement against slow bowlers, it is obvious that Rana is a good player of spin too.

Having followed Kolkata’s campaign closely this season, for me, Rana has been the most valuable Indian cricketer for them. Most importantly, he also has a decent record at the First-Class level – batting average of 46.29 after 24 games for Delhi – which means he is not just one of those IPL specialists.

Maybe it is a bit early to say, but the stylish left-hander seems like an India material.

Now the question is, can Rana make it big following this impressive beginning?

In the past, we have seen IPL has fast-tracked careers of uncapped cricketers. And we know currently, there is a vacancy in the middle-order of India’s ODI and T20I sides.

Hence, if Rana continues to tick the right boxes during this IPL, he may get a look in the national team.