New Delhi: The recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction in Kolkata saw Australian and West Indian internationals attract some of the highest bids from the eight franchises, with Pat Cummins (KKR, Rs 15.5 crore) and Glenn Maxwell (KXIP, Rs 10.75 crore) dominating headlines for their massive payouts.
However, a part of the Rs 1.4 billion spent in total by the franchises on Thursday evening also went to relatively unknown names still making their presence felt in the sport. Uncapped Indian players such as Tamil Nadu spinner Varun Chakravarthy (KKR, Rs 4 crore), Mumbai teenager Yashasvi Jaiswal (RR, Rs 2.4 crore) became crorepatis at the end of the event.
Jharkhand batsman Virat Singh went straight to the team hotel in Ranchi after his team's innings victory in Ranji Trophy over Assam on Day 3 of the Group C encounter to tune in to Thursday's auction, and was overwhelmed by calls and messages after auctioneer Hugh Edmeades announced "Sold!" to complete his purchase to Sunrisers Hyderabad for a sum of Rs 1.9 crore, nearly 10 times of his base price of Rs 20 lakh. A leap that took him by surprise.
"Extremely happy to have finally been picked by an IPL franchise after a lot of struggle. Had been trying for the last two-three years, and that finally happened this year. It was quite surprising for my bid to escalate the way it did. Was quite surprising for me at least. Obviously they must have noticed something special in me, which is why they went the full distance," said Virat in a chat with Firstpost.
Sitting beside him watching the auction in the hotel room was state teammate and India left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who would soon become his IPL teammate as well.
"Very happy that us statemates are part of the same IPL team," said Virat."This will be my first year in the IPL, while he has been playing in the tournament for many years now, and has also represented India, so he has a lot of experience. So I hope to receive a lot of support from him, and that he shares his IPL experience with me." In addition to Nadeem, Virat also hopes to learn Australian batsman David Warner's aggression and captain Kane Williamson's calmness, and hopefully strike a balance between the two.
Virat is part of an SRH squad that boasts of a robust top-order in Warner, Williamson and Englishman Jos Buttler, but could improve as far as their middle order is concerned. The Jharkhand batsman certainly has been in rich vein of form in white-ball cricket, having made valuable contributions for his team in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (335 runs, average 83.75) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (343 runs, average 57.16) with a strike rate of 142.32. He is likely to be seen as one who could plug in the gap in the middle order in order to ease off some of the pressure on the top three.
Virat credits his rise in batting form as well as his ability to finish games to his stint in the United Kingdom, where he played for the CM Park Cricket Club in the Durham County League, in addition to honing other skills such as pacing his innings, targeting or seeing off a specific bowler. Those skills now serve him well in domestic cricket at home and which he hopes will come in handy during the IPL.
— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) December 19, 2019
The 22-year-old is part of the Jharkhand side that has registered two outright victories in as many games in the Ranji Trophy that commenced this month, a solid start to an outfit that has vastly improved over the years.
Virat insists that his focus has firmly shifted back to BCCI's premier domestic event now that he has finished celebrating his IPL auction payday with family and friends.
"Now that the celebrations are over, I am back on track as far as cricket is concerned, and have already resumed my practice for Ranji Trophy. Not thinking about IPL yet, which still is a few months away.
"Main focus is currently on our Ranji campaign. The current Jharkhand side is a good one in terms of talent and balance, and hopefully this year we will qualify for the knockouts and go as far as reaching the final and even lift the trophy," said the left-hander, who grew up idolising Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara.
When quizzed a little further on the current state of cricket in Jharkhand and its contribution to the upper levels of the sport, Virat maintained that there are more players from his state now than ever, a spurt accelerated by better cricketing infrastructure in the eastern Indian state.
"There are about six to seven players from the current Jharkhand squad playing in the IPL. So you can’t say that Jharkhand players aren’t playing top-flight cricket at the moment. Nadeem made his Test debut. Saurabh Tiwary, Varun Aaron have represented India in the past. Ishan Kishan, Rahul Shukla and I.
"So, we don’t ever think there aren’t top cricketers emerging from Jharkhand. Obviously if you perform, you will get selected. Our infrastructure is also very good. We have all the facilities in the state," added the Jamshedpur native, whose parents originally wanted him to excel in academics and become an engineer, although fate had other plans in store.
Is the thought of breaking into the Indian team sometime next year coming to his mind yet? Virat certainly doesn't rule that possibility out.
"Every cricketer dreams of playing for India one day, and I’m no different in this regard. For now, I am focussed completely on the Ranji Trophy, followed by the IPL. I will catch the national selectors’ attention if I perform well in both. The rest is upto the selectors. My job is to perform."
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