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February 13, 2014
Karn Sharma, the Railways legspinner, usually practises early in the morning whenever he is in his hometown Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, around 70 km away from the national capital. Thursday was different. With the clock starting to tickle closer to 10am, he could not "bear the tension" and headed to his local club's ground to train. Midway through his training session, his cellphone rang.
His wife and younger sister gave him the news that left him spellbound. He had been sold in the IPL auction for Rs 3.75 crore ($625,000). Not only was Sharma's signing fee the highest among the domestic uncapped cricketers who went under the hammer for the first time but it was also higher than that of the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Virender Sehwag.
More than five hours since he had the windfall, Sharma could finally watch an exciting bidding battle between four IPL teams - Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad - to bring him on board. That was the most heartening sign for Sharma.
"This was a first when I was going to be a part of the auction, so the tension was whether I would be bought by anyone," Sharma told ESPNcricinfo. "I knew that I was in with a chance since I had a good last year with Sunrisers, but was delighted to witness four teams going for me. I am still watching re-runs of my bidding on various channels."
Asked what was more heartening for him: the exorbitant amount or Sunrisers' desperation to cling on to him, Sharma tried to be as diplomatic as possible. "Obviously you cannot ignore money but beyond a stage money doesn't matter much. What matters more is the opportunity. I am glad that Sunrisers showed so much faith in me and will try to justify it in the coming season."
Sharma has had a modest background. His father, Vinod, works for a publishing house in New Delhi. He was allowed to pursue his passion of playing cricket and he was relieved when he was employed with Indian Railways at a young age. Since then, he has been posted in Varanasi, in another corner of the state. Despite being on the first-class circuit since 2007, Sharma's breakthrough season came in 2012-13, when he was adjudged the Under-25 Player of the Year.
That was followed by the IPL, where he had a contract of Rs 30 lakh with the Hyderabad franchise. He showed remarkable consistency in the Sunrisers' debut season, picking 11 wickets in 13 matches at 20.90, with an impressive economy rate of 6.60. He is also a useful batsman lower down the order and has notched a century and six fifties in first-class cricket.
Will the pressure of having been a prize catch be different than his previous experience? "I don't think so," Sharma said. "Virtually every player earns in different denominations in IPL. But once you take the field, money is never on anyone's mind. Performance is. And that is what I will keep on doing"
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