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How The IPL CHANGED My Life

By HARISH KOTIAN
May 20, 2022 09:24 IST
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'The IPL was a big learning for me that whatever you do at this level, you should be confident about yourself.'

IMAGE: Delhi Capitals' pace bowler Chetan Sakariya celebrates the prize wicket of Rajasthan Royals Opener Jos Buttler at the D Y Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai on May 11, 2022. Photograph: BCCI
 

For Chetan Sakariya, the IPL has been a life-changing opportunity.

The Saurashtra pacer had been a consistent performer in domestic cricket, but it was his performances for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021 which got him caught everyone's attention.

After taking 14 wickets in as many games for the Royals in his debut IPL season, Sakariya was signed for Rs 4.2 crore (Rs 42 million) by the Delhi Capitals for IPL 2022. His IPL 2021 show also paved the path for his selection to the Indian team for last year's limited overs series in Sri Lanka.

"In the past, I used to have a lot of doubts whenever I played a match. I used to think that 'I am playing against such a big player, do I belong at this level or not? Will my abilities work or not?' After I played a couple of matches in the IPL and did well, I got the confidence that if I perform to the best of my abilities, I can succeed at this level," Sakariya tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.

You did well with in domestic tournaments last season -- the Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, the Vijay Hazare One-Day Tournament, the Ranji Trophy -- and were one of Rajasthan Royals' consistent performers last season. Would you say that helped you get the good price at the auction?

Yes, definitely. Just like you have 12th board exams for students, for cricketers you have the Ranji Trophy and other domestic matches where you have to prove yourself.

I believe that because of my good showing in domestic cricket, the franchises showed so much interest in me.

The IPL is a big platform for any player, especially India's domestic cricketers. What were the major learnings for you as a bowler in your debut IPL season with the Rajasthan Royals last year?

In the past, I used to have a lot of doubts whenever I played a match. I used to think that 'I am playing against such a big player, do I belong at this level or not? Will my abilities work or not?'

I used to have a lot of doubts, but after I played a couple of matches in the IPL and did well in those matches, I got the confidence that if I perform to the best of my abilities, I can succeed at this level.

So, the IPL was a big learning for me that whatever you do at this level, you should be confident about yourself.

Talking that confidence ahead, you also achieved one big dream by getting selected for the Indian team led by Shikhar Dhawan for the limited overs series in Sri Lanka last year. How big was that for your career?

People in my close circle had already got the feeling that I would get selected for the Indian team, but I was thinking I need to do more.

I had the confidence that if you do well in the IPL which features a lot of international players, you can do well at the highest level.

And when my name was announced in the Indian team, I was happy and also shocked at the same time.

Personally, I was feeling very happy from the inside that I was able to make it to the IPL.

How was it playing under Rahul Dravid in Sri Lanka last year? What advice did he give you?

My first meeting with Rahul Sir was very memorable. I remember we had come out of quarantine in Sri Lanka and all the players were at the pool side.

I was just lying down on a bench. Suddenly, Rahul Sir came there and he introduced himself, saying, 'Hi Chetan, I am Rahul Dravid.'

I was thinking from inside, 'Why do you need to introduce yourself? You are such a legendary cricketer, everyone knows you.'

You can see his simplicity. Just to make me feel comfortable, he introduced himself.

I was very happy that Rahul Sir knew about me. He told me he has been following my career since last year in domestic cricket and in the IPL, and he told me that I have been doing very well.

He gave me a lot of confidence by saying that these are the strong points about your bowling.

To hear all these things from Rahul Sir was very inspirational. All the young players in India have looked up to Rahul Sir and wanted to be like him.

So to get such compliments from Rahul Sir made me feel very good. He made me feel that I also belong at this level.

That is why I say that my first meeting with Rahul Sir was so memorable.

IMAGE: Chetan Sakariya with Delhi Capitals Head Coach Ricky Ponting. Photograph: Chetan Sakariya/Instagram

How has it been playing under another legend, Ricky Ponting, the head coach at Delhi Capitals?

The best part about Ricky Sir is that he will focus on the entire squad of 24 players, and not just a few players.

His role is actually quite difficult because only 11 players can play in a match. So what he does is that he motivates the rest of the players who don't get a chance to play.

He wants to see that fire in the players in his squad. If he feels a player is feeling down, then he will go and talk to him, tell him that he needs to be ready and fired up to play because he could feature in any match.

IMAGE: Chetan Sakariya says his bowling action is inspired by Pakistan pacer Junaid Khan. Photograph: BCCI

Your action is inspired by Pakistan fast bowler Junaid Khan. Tell us how that happened.

Like all small kids who try to copy a big cricketer, I also tried to copy the action of all the top left-arm pace bowlers like Zaheer (KhanPathan) Sir and others.

It was in 2010 that Pakistan came to India for a cricket tour. Junaid Khan bowled well, he took a lot of wickets. From that point onwards, I started to think I will also bowl like him, I will also jump like him.

What happened with the jump was that I got rhythm in my bowling, the run up became smooth and the jump made me feel comfortable with my bowling. So I decided I will bowl like this from now on.

How much have you learnt from your Saurashtra Captain Jaydev Unadkat and Cheteshwar Pujara, against whom you must have bowled a lot in the nets?

I would say Jaydev bhai has played a big role in my career so far. When I came into the Saurashtra team, I was very raw, I didn't have much experience.

The only reason I settled so quickly in the domestic circuit was because of Jaydev bhai and Sheldon bhai (Jackson). They used to talk to me all the time. Even when I was not in the Ranji Trophy team for a year, they used to constantly encourage me, tell me what to do.

And when we practiced together, they used to guide me on how to work on my fitness and my bowling.

When I came into the Saurashtra team, Jaydev bhai took it upon himself to guide me. He used to help me with the planning for the matches, and my work used to be to go out and execute it. Under his watch, I slowly started to learn how to plan for upcoming games.

When I came into the team, I used to only look for wickets. If I didn't get wickets I would concede a lot of runs. Jaydev bhai helped me a lot.

It is not that you will always pick wickets, sometimes you need to keep things tight and build the pressure as well to force the batters into a mistake. So these things I learnt from Jaydev bhai.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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