My life-changing IPL auction: 'The entire state watched me on television', T Natarajan recalls the day Kings XI Punjab bought him for Rs 3 crores

  • Jigar Mehta
  • December 19th, 2019
  • 13:00:48 IST

It's that time of the year again when excitement is in the air. Hope, anxiety and nerves grip the cricketers as they look forward to the Indian Premier League auctions. The auctions in the past have proved to be life-changing ones for many. As the players prepare to go under the hammer yet again for the 2020 season, cricketers share their auction day experiences which left them emotional and stunned on the big fat payday.

Left-arm medium-pacer Thangarasu Natarajan was bought by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3 crores, 30 times his base price, making him the highest-paid uncapped player in the 2017 auctions. The Tamil Nadu pacer was picked on the back of impressive performances in the first season of the Tamil Nadu Premier League and domestic circuit and drew comparisons with Bangladesh pacer Mustafizur Rahman for similar bowling attributes. He recalls that 'exciting day' that turned his life around.  

It was an extremely exciting day. I was just hoping that any team picks me up at the base price. The franchises had tracked my performances in the Ranji Trophy and the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) and some of them had even called me for the trials. I had performed well in my debut TNPL, picking up 10 wickets from seven matches at 19.80, before the auction so I was slightly confident of getting picked but never in my dreams had I imagined that I would get picked for 3 crores. Still, I was really nervous ahead of the auction, the only thing that was continuously running into my mind was, who will pick me?

I didn't have even the slightest hint that I was going to be picked up in the auction, neither did I have a preference for the teams. I just wanted any one of the eight teams to buy me, at the base price.

T Natarajan in action for KXIP. Sportzpics

T Natarajan in action for KXIP. Sportzpics

I was in Chennai at that time playing for my club in first division matches. The night before the auction, I was really nervous but I still managed to sleep on time which is normally 11-11.30. On the day of the auction, we didn't have a match, so routinely, I got up at 6 am, went for practice at 6.30 and right through the practice, I was excited.

As soon as the auctions started, I headed straight to the clubhouse and switched on the TV. I was the only one in that room watching the action unfold. My nerves were jangling and as soon as my name was announced, my heartbeat just shot up.

To add to my anxiety, other teams jumped in and started a bidding war and my price started going north, I was shocked, literally. A lot of things started running in my mind. My consciousness was fraught with anxiety. 'The teams have shown faith in me by bidding for a high price so I have to perform well at any cost', the mind murmured. I had played just state cricket and not India A or anything higher, so I was very shocked and it also brought along a sense of responsibility.

I started thinking about winning matches for the team I was going to be a part of. When the hammer finally went down at the 3 crore bid by Kings XI Punjab, I just jumped from the sofa and shouted my lungs out, 'At last' heartbeat went bonkers. The phone started buzzing. I was just smiling for the next half an hour. I just didn't know what was happening.

The first call I received was from my best friend Jayaprakash whom I consider my brother. I could literally hear the people shouting in the background at my house. He lives about half a kilometre away from my house and is the one who's taken care of all my cricket. I met him while playing tennis ball cricket on the streets, he took care of my entire cricket, right from coaching, correcting my action and taking me forward in my career.

We had struggled a lot, we didn't even have money for studies, it was Jayaprakash who took care of my academics, clothing and daily expenses. I came from a very poor family. In our village, the kids are not allowed to play cricket. So when the price kept getting higher the emotions were running high. After two hours I called up my parents. My father just went silent on the phone, he was so emotional and so was my mother. They were very emotional. I have three sisters and one brother and I was the eldest one. My parents were daily wage workers. Mom owned a roadside chicken shop while dad was a daily wager in the power loom sector. I had made them proud. Sun Tv had reached my home to interview them. They were live on national television. It was just a special feeling.

After the auctions got over, the reporters thronged my clubhouse and the whole day was spent in giving interviews to TV channels and newspapers. After that, slowly, I started thinking about my time in the IPL. My strength was always the yorker, wide yorker, slower bouncer so I was continuously thinking that I need to improve on those strengths and employ them in the match. I did sleep well though that night.

Yes, there was that extra pressure of the price tag when I joined the KXIP team. But the teammates welcomed me with open arms and the warmth I received from them really appeased my nerves.

My career hit a high. The entire state watched me on television that day.

Those 3 crores didn't matter to me much. I just wanted to play in the IPL. Imagine a small-village boy playing in one of the biggest leagues in the world. It would have inspired so many kids and parents in my village as well as other villages to take up cricket.

I just wanted to inspire people and set an example.

Updated Date: December 19, 2019 13:00:48 IST

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