On the day he became a crorepati within a few minutes of intense bidding at the IPL 2021 auction, Rajasthan Royals’ new signing, Chetan Sakariya, had one regret. Just last month, he had lost his younger brother, who he was very close to. He says that the unexpected windfall of Rs 1.20 crore will change his life but he still felt empty.
“My younger brother committed suicide in January. I wasn’t at home, I was playing Syed Mushtaq Ali at that time. I didn’t know he had passed away until I returned home. Even then, my family didn’t share the news with me. I used to ask them about Rahul’s whereabouts and they would tell me ‘he has gone out’. Sometimes , they would say he had ventured out to buy groceries. This absence is a big void for me. Had he been here today he would have been more happy than me,” says the 28-year-old left-arm pacer. .
Life hasn’t been easy for this late-bloomer. Until two years ago, Sakariya’s father Kanjibhai was driving a tempo to make ends meet in Vartej, a small town 10 kilometers from Bhavnagar in Gujarat. Since the family didn’t own a television set until five years ago, so watching cricket meant walking across to some friend’s houses or hanging outside electronic showrooms.
This big break didn’t come as a surprise to him since his stint as a net bowler with Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL held in UAE a few months ago had given him the confidence. RCB did show interest in him at the auction but it was Rajasthan Royals that signed Sakariya.
“I was hoping that this time I will be there because when I went as a net bowler for RCB during IPL in UAE, RCB coach Mike Hesson and Simon Katich had told me that I have ticked all boxes to be part of any IPL team. RCB did try for me but getting picked for any team makes me happy,” Sakariya said.
His small house was flooded with neighbours and relatives. Sakariya says the phone has been buzzing since the time he got picked. His father never wanted him to be a cricketer until his uncle stepped in. When Sakariya became a regular bowler for the Saurashtra side, he urged his father to retire.
“I never wanted him to work, I told him, I will take care of my family. People are asking me, what I will do with so much money, I said, let the money come first. I always wanted to shift to Rajkot, somehow I didn’t have decent money to buy a good house. Now, the first thing I will do is buy a house in a good locality,” he explains.
Sakariya played a crucial role for Saurashtra in their maiden Ranji Trophy title win last year when they beat Bengal. He has played 15 first-class and 16 T20 games.
The early days were difficult for Sakariya because of the family’s financial strife. His parents wanted him to focus on studies with the aim to get a government job.
However, an uncle supported him. The deal was simple. Sakariya would have to help around in the uncle’s stationery stop. The uncle would pay school fees and also encouraged him to play cricket. Sakariya’s parents were at ease knowing that their son was playing as well as studying.
The big break came when he was selected for the Saurashtra Under-19 side. He scalped 18 wickets in six Cooch Behar Trophy games and was on the way to the MRF Pace Foundation. Sakaria recalls that he first wore a proper pair of bowling spikes just before going to the MRF pace foundation. It was a gift from a teammate who was impressed by his showing in the Under-19 domestic tournament.
He went on to make his Ranji Trophy debut during the 2018-19 season. That year fast bowler Jaydev Unadkat was injured and Sakariya was drafted in. On debut he bagged a five-wicket haul and finished the season with nearly 30 wickets. Being part of the title-winning Saurashtra team the next season and beating Bengal in the final was a highpoint in his career.
However, like all players, Sakariya too wanted an IPL contract. The chance to share the dressing room with some of the best and playing with and against top cricketers has always been a dream, he says. Being able to afford a move to Rajkot for the family is a bonus.
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