For a regular 16-year-old preparing for the Class XII board examinations next year, it is time for rigorous tuition classes and wrapping up the preparations. It is no different for Prayas Ray Barman, who will appear for the CBSE examinations, other than the fact that he will also have to take out some time for the Indian Premier League (IPL).
After all, Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) coughed up Rs 1.50 crore in the auction on Tuesday for the services of this young leg-spinner from Bengal. “Hopefully the dates will not clash. And if it happens, I will request my school to make arrangements for me to take the tests later. At this stage of my career, I cannot afford to skip the IPL for my board examinations,’’ says Ray Barman in a chat with Firstpost.
A fast car or a dream world tour with his first big earning?
“I have not given it a thought at all. I want to stay grounded and not get carried away by the trappings of fame. At the moment, I am too excited with the thought of sharing the dressing room with the likes of Virat Kohli," gushes the right-arm leg-spinner.
Life has already undergone a transformation for him and his parents. The phones have hardly stopped ringing since the auction. There are requests for interviews from the media and Ray Barman is already one of the top searches on google.
“I was following the auctions yesterday but I had no idea that the franchises will bid for me and I will be sold for this price. Initially I had decided not to put my name in the auction. But just a few hours before the scheduled close of completing the process, I received a call from Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) that some of the franchises were keen. I made a mad scramble to complete the paperwork and luckily, it worked for me.’’
Ray Barman, with his towering frame of six feet one inch, has caught the eye of the talent scouts because of his ability to land deliveries with immaculate precision and extracting bounce.
“He is very much in the mould of Anil Kumble with accuracy being his strength,’’ remarks Murtuza Lodhgar, a former Bengal spinner who has worked with Ray Barman closely.
“A key adjustment he has made in the last few months is that he is trying to attack the stumps more rather than pitching his deliveries outside the off stump. This has made him a more attacking leg-spinner, where the batsmen are now vulnerable to being trapped leg-before,’’ adds Lodhgar, a spin coach at the east zone National Cricket Academy.
“I had this growth spurt in the last few years when my height increased and suddenly I had to alter the trajectories of my delivery. This was very challenging,’’ says Ray Barman.
Lodhgar believes that Ray Barman narrowly missed being a part of the Under-19 Indian team that toured Sri Lanka this year. During an inter-zonal Under 19 tournament in Una, he had caught the eyes of the junior Indian selectors and around this time he had come under the radar of the various IPL franchises. Though he did not have enough occasions to showcase his prowess with the willow, he is known to be a handy batsman and a sharp fielder.
Growing up in Delhi, young Ray Barman was fascinated watching footage of Shane Warne and took up bowling leg-spin. However, it was the infamous Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell spat that left an indelible mark on his mind.
“He was very young when this incident happened, but the topic used to come up repeatedly in our family conversations. I told him after Ganguly’s exit, there was no cricketer from Bengal who is currently playing for India. Strangely this fired him up and he was determined to play for Bengal and then play for India,’’ reminisces Prayas’s father Dr Kaushik Ray Barman.
“He was willing to shift base and stay with his grandparents in Durgapur to pursue cricket in Bengal.’’
A change of environment from bustling Delhi to a sleepy steel city of Durgapur bolstered his cricketing fortunes. As a 10-year-old, he was returning impressive performances in Under-14 tournaments and was picked for the Bengal side which was touring Bangladesh.
“This was a big break for me and I emerged as the second highest wicket-taker in the series,’’ says Ray Barman. He hardly looked back since then, and this year was rewarded with a berth in the senior Bengal side in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-over tournament).
In his very first match, he did not take long to flaunt his wicket-taking potential, bagging his maiden List A wicket off his second delivery. Two balls later he sent back Jammu and Kashmir skipper Parvez Rasool and finished with a fairytale haul of four wickets in the match. In nine list A games, he had 11 wickets against his name at an average of 23 and an economy of 4.45.
The excitement in the Ray Barman family is palpable, but Prayas’s father is not celebrating yet. “It is just the start of the journey. Prayas still has a long road ahead to realise his childhood dream of playing for India,’’ insists senior Ray Barman.
And the youngster seemed to have got the message as he did not let the life-altering events of the last 24 hours affect his training regimen. From an exhaustive gym session to cricket nets, Ray Barman did it all, taking momentary breaks to reply to the congratulatory calls on his mobile.