IPL contract with RR a ‘ray of hope’ for emerging out of emotional crisis: Chetan Sakariya [Exclusive]

Chetan Sakariya

Chetan Sakariya with his late brother

Chetan Sakariya with Glenn McGrath (right) at the MRF pace foundation

Chetan Sakariya and his Saurashtra teammates pose with the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy.

Chetan Sakariya bowled to the likes of Virat Kohli (right) and AB de Villiers (left) in the nets.

Chetan Sakariya on whether he can make it to the Indian team through the IPL like a T Natarajan (left).

Chetan Sakariya has been through immense emotional turmoil of late, as his brother committed suicide a month ago. The left-arm pacer from Saurashtra was on domestic duty, playing the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, when the tragedy happened.

Despite losing a 22-year-old brother, with whom he was very close, February 18th, 2021 marked the beginning of a new chapter in Chetan Sakariya‘s life.

Chetan Sakariya had registered himself in the IPL 2021 auction at a base price of INR 20 lakhs. But he saw himself in a bidding war between the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and the Rajasthan Royals (RR).

Eventually, RR snapped up Chetan Sakariya for INR 1.2 crore, as the son of a tempo driver is now set to script an inspiring story. He is currently with the Saurashtra squad, preparing for the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda on Saturday, Chetan Sakariya spoke about his early struggle, experience as a net bowler at RCB, his future goals and much more.

Q: When RR picked you up for INR 1.2 crore, what was your reaction? Were you almost sure that you would get a bid, or was it unexpected?

Chetan Sakariya: It was quite unexpected. I knew that I would get snapped up by one or the other team, as both Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals had called me for trials. But I didn’t expect a bidding war for my services, and I certainly didn’t predict the eventual price tag.

Q: Your family has been through a lot of hardships, especially after the tragic death of your brother a month ago. What was their reaction after seeing you bag an IPL contract?

Chetan Sakariya: When I got selected, my parents were delighted and had tears of joy in their eyes. It was a very huge thing for them. This will surely give us stability and a ray of hope to emerge out of this emotional crisis.

Q: But what exactly had happened? Were you not immediately told about your brother’s demise?

Chetan Sakariya: Since I was playing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, I was told about my brother’s death ten days later. Throughout the tournament, whenever I video-called home and asked about my brother, I was told that he had gone out to bring something, gone to his uncle’s house and all other such things.

Q: So, when you returned home, did you try and find a reason behind the unfortunate incident?

Chetan Sakariya: Yes, we have tried a lot to find out the real reason, but we are not yet a hundred percent sure. There could be two-three reasons behind it, but I would not want to comment on that right now.

Q: Your father was a tempo driver. So was there a strong resolve in you to stop him from continuing this exertion after you began playing professional cricket?

Chetan Sakariya: Yes, the year in which I started playing Ranji Trophy (2018-19), I decided that I would not let my father ride the tempo anymore. He only used to stay at home and help in the household chores. I have been playing Ranji Trophy for the past three years now, so my father has retired ever since.

Q: Now, you might be a regular feature in the Saurashtra team. But kindly share a bit of insight about your early days of struggle.

Chetan Sakariya: As I passed my 12th standard, the teachers as well as everyone at home were certain that I was going to prioritise cricket over my studies. So my uncle told my father to allow me to play as much as I wanted to.

But since I was the elder child, I also had to generate income for the family. My uncle had just started his new business. He wanted someone who had the knowledge of handling a computer and managing the accounts.

Since I had a bit of knowledge about it, my uncle told me to attend cricket practice in the morning and help him with his business the rest of the time. If there was practice in the evening, I was allowed to head to the ground.

My uncle also took responsibility for the expenses of the cricket equipment that I would require from that point on.

Q: Like the great Sachin Tendulkar had his ‘guru’ in Late Ramakant Achrekar, who was that one person who guided you towards playing professional cricket?

Chetan Sakariya: In my career so far, there have been a number of people who are responsible for spotting the talent in me and motivating me to play competitive cricket. From the moment I returned from the MRF pace foundation, my career has changed substantially.

Q: Kindly take us through the emotions you felt on your Ranji Trophy debut. How did the seniors in the team like Jaydev Unadkat mentor you? What role did they play in your development?

Chetan Sakariya: Actually, I was originally not going to play that match since I was playing U-23, junior cricket. But just before that game, Jaydev Bhai had got a niggle in his ankle. So he was advised to rest for the next two games.

I received a call-up from the senior team that I was drafted into the Saurashtra Ranji Trophy squad. The very next day, it was decided during practice that I would make my debut for the senior team.

I was not at all prepared mentally. I believed I required some more time to prove myself at this level. But Jaydev Bhai’s injury gave me an opportunity to play.

Q: You won the Ranji Trophy title in just your second season. So was there any special moment or spell that gave you the confidence that you belonged to this level?

Chetan Sakariya: I had a very good debut season, as I had picked up 29 wickets. But next year, although I had prepared well, I was coming back from an injury lay-off. So I wasn’t mentally confident about my body and the way I was bowling.

But Jaydev Bhai supported me mentally and motivated me. Whenever I required guidance, he was always there. So that helped me a lot, and as the season progressed, I began to bowl well and gradually got back into my rhythm.

There wasn’t any special moment as such. But throughout the season, Jaydev Bhai used to guide me on how to bowl in different situations. He also told me to not be harsh on myself and take less pressure.

He always gave me confidence, and that ensured I didn’t have a fear of getting dropped from the team. So that year was very crucial for me and gave me the momentum to perform well in the next Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

Q: Speaking about the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, your performances in the 2019-20 edition earned you a call-up to RCB as a net bowler. Tell us something about that.

Chetan Sakariya: Actually, that selection happened only because of one match. I was struggling to bowl well, and Jharkhand were a strong T20 side. In the last over of the game, they required just seven runs to win.

I almost ended up defending those runs, and we made a thrilling match out of it. I was executing the deliveries according to the plans made by Jaydev Bhai. The RCB scouts were in the stands that day, and thus, that performance convinced them about my ability.

Q: What all did you learn from other experienced bowlers in the RCB squad? How was your overall experience of bowling to greats like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers?

Chetan Sakariya: I learnt many new deliveries there, and I experimented with my bowling in the RCB camp. I spoke at length about different bowling plans with Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav. I experimented and tried to add different deliveries to my repertoire, and that helped me a lot in T20 cricket.

Mike Hesson had told me in the RCB camp itself:

“You have proved enough to us. But you need to perform in domestic cricket, and only then you can play in the IPL.”

I couldn’t speak much with Kohli and De Villiers, as they were engrossed in their own preparation. But while bowling in the nets, they used to tell me the areas in which I should land the ball.

Q: Looking at the RR squad, one might debate there is a lack of an experienced Indian fast bowler. So do you see yourself as a part of the playing XI from the very first game itself?

Chetan Sakariya: I have absolutely no idea what the management and the franchise might be planning for the upcoming season. But I will surely give my hundred percent in whatever matches I play. I am currently only focusing on performing in the upcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Q: Before the IPL 2020 season, T Natarajan was not a household name. He is a left-arm pacer just like you, and one successful IPL season earned him an India call-up. So do you think a successful IPL season might bring you straight into the national scheme of things?

Chetan Sakariya: To be honest, I am not thinking currently about making it to the Indian team. Because for that to happen, I still need to prove a lot.

I would still feel nervous because I know there is a lot of room for improvement in my bowling. So If I play for India after having improved as a bowler, it would be great for my long career.

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