This piece was originally written after Chetan Sakariya’s debut in IPL 2021. Since then, he has earned a call-up for the national team’s tour to Sri Lanka in July 2021.

Despite the Punjab Kings’ last-ball victory over Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League 2021 (IPL), both sides witnessed some impressive individual performances. Newly-appointed captain and centurion Sanju Samson was the obvious batting star for the Royals, but debutant Chetan Sakariya (3/31) was their star player with the ball.

Praise from legends

The 22-year-old struck with the new ball to dismiss Mayank Agarwal and came back at the death to scalp the wickets of KL Rahul and Jhye Richardson. His maiden IPL outing drew attention from the likes of Virender Sehwag, who compared his temperament and fearless approach to iconic left-arm Indian pacers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.

https://www.iplt20.com/video/229710/chetan-sakariya-s-impressive-3-wicket-haul-on-debut

“I’ve heard his name, even saw him bowl in domestic games, but didn’t expect that he would bowl so well. You face different batters in the domestic circuit but in IPL, you come across big and renowned batsmen. We got to see his temperament. He was fearless,” Sehwag told Cricbuzz.

“He had variations as well. Though there were a few no-balls but overall, he bowled very well. The way he got Mayank Agarwal and surprised Chris Gayle with one of his deliveries, he was completely impressive,” he added.

Life struggles

Behind this booming debut though, has been a journey full of extraordinary challenges and heartbreaking life events. 

Chetan, the elder of two sons, was born in a household, which until two years ago, earned its bread through the father’s tempo. Kanjibhai drove around in Vartej, a small town in Gujarat, to make ends meet for his family.

In the absence of a television set at home, Chetan had to walk over to a friend’s house or hang around electronic shops to watch cricket. But his parents wanted him to focus on getting a government job due to the family’s financial struggles.

Inspiring cricketing journey

But support came in the form of a relative who funded Chetan’s education and encouraged him to play cricket. In exchange, he had to work for the uncle’s stationery shop. Sakariya’s parents were at ease with the deal knowing that their son was enrolled in both studies and cricket.

His professional cricket career then took off with a big break for the Saurasthra Under-19 side. He scalped 18 wickets in six Cooch Behar Trophy games and earned a call-up to the MRF Pace Foundation. Sakaria told the Indian Express that he first wore a proper pair of bowling spikes just before going to the MRF pace foundation. It was a gift from a teammate who was impressed by his showing in the Under-19 domestic tournament.

 

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He made his subsequent Ranji Trophy debut in 2018-19 for Saurashtra, filling in for the injured Jaydev Unadkat. He bagged a five-fer in his first outing and went on to pick nearly 30 wickets that year. He then became part of the title-winning Saurashtra side in the following season.

This earned him a stint as a net bowler with the Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL held in UAE a few months ago. “When I went as a net bowler for RCB during IPL in UAE, RCB coach Mike Hesson and Simon Katich had told me that I have ticked all boxes to be part of any IPL team,” Sakariya had said.

Personal tragedy

He went into the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in January earlier this year to also impress potential suitors for the upcoming IPL auction. But tragedy struck as his younger brother Rahul committed suicide while Chetan was away.

“I didn’t know he had passed away until I returned home,” he had told the Indian Express.

“Even then, my family didn’t share the news with me. I used to ask them about Rahul’s whereabouts and they would tell me ‘he has gone out’. Sometimes, they would say he had ventured out to buy groceries.” 

IPL call-up

Not even a few weeks had passed since, but a silver lining for the Sakariya family came in the form of a Rs 1.2-crore IPL contract for Chetan. RCB and RR locked horns at the auction for his signature, but the latter outbid other suitors eventually. 

 

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He had reacted to the news by saying that the unexpected windfall of Rs 1.2 crore will change his life, but he still felt empty. “This (Rahul’s) absence is a big void for me. Had he been here today he would have been more happy than me.” 

He overcame both emotion and nerves on the day it mattered though. His three-wicket IPL debut and a jawdroppping catch at short fine leg on Monday have left a lasting mark in the memory of most viewers.

With the recent trend of Indian youngsters taking their opportunities on international level, this performance bodes well for both Indian cricket and the young left-arm pacer Chetan Sakariya. Remember the name.