The most expensive uncapped Indian players
Kishore Kamath, a legspinner and handy middle-order batsman, was watching the auction unfold on TV, least expecting a bid, until Mumbai Indians, the team he trialed for, raised the paddle. For the next 15 minutes, the 21-year-old sat in his living room transfixed. When the hammer went down at Rs 1.4 crores, an amount that was 14 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh, he was stunned even as phone calls and messages started flooding in. That he signed up for the auction was on the backing Hubli Tigers, the franchise he represented at the Karnataka Premier League in 2015 following strong performances in the KSCA first division league for Malleswaram Gymkhana. His ten scalps in seven matches at an economy of less than six runs an over also earned him an invitation to attend the trials organised by Royal Challengers Bangalore last month. During the off season, Kamath lives in Dharwad and trains at the KSCA academy that was inaugurated four years ago in Hubli under his father Pramod Kamath, who played seven first-class matches for Goa in the 1980s.
M Ashwin, a legspinner, has played all of three first-class matches since his debut for Tamil Nadu three seasons ago. But the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India's domestic T20 competition, that was advanced in order to give the aspirants an opportunity to showcase their talent to the IPL franchises proved to be a turning point. He finished the 2015-16 edition as the second-highest wicket-taker for his state with ten scalps. His economy rate of 5.52 across six matches stood out, and perhaps went a long way in his Rs 4.5 crore bid from Rising Pune Supergiants. Ashwin honed his craft at the cricket academy run by CS Suresh Kumar, the former Tamil Nadu batsman, before making the transition to the senior side on the back of strong performances for the state's Under-23s side. Ashwin has been a regular feature over the years as a net bowler for Chennai Super Kings. The 25-year-old idolises Anil Kumble, and recently trained with Imran Tahir during South Africa's tour of India in November.
The day the court appointed an ad-hoc committee to run Rajasthan cricket in 2015, its convenor, Amrit Mathur, received a call from Rahul Dravid. The gist of the conversation was: "this boy" is good, please keep an eye out for him. Thus began an incredible story of Nathu, son of a labourer in a wire factory near Jaipur. The Rajasthan pacer first hit the headlines for consistently clocking over 145kph. As if to prove he wasn't just about pace, Nathu, who also trained under Glenn McGrath at the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai, shot into the limelight when he returned figures of 7 for 87 on debut against a star-studded Delhi in Ranji Trophy 2015-16. That performance earned the 20-year-old a place in the Board President XI's squad for a two-day warm-up fixture against the visiting South Africans. His impressive T20 record of 21 scalps in 11 matches may have gone a long way in multiple sides showing interest in him, with Mumbai Indians eventually signing him for Rs 3.2 crore.
Cricket is replete with stories of individuals taking their first small steps towards the big time by playing recreational games in their backyards. The case of Hardik Pandya and Krunal, an upcoming allrounder, is no different. The brothers were drawn to the game because of their cricket fanatic father, Himanshu. Such was Himanshu's passion that he would take both his sons to the stadium in Vadodara whenever the cricket carnival rolled in. And then they played, as often as they could. As the younger sibling, Hardik did all the bowling to Krunal, which he says channelised the batsman in him. The brothers started training at Kiran More's academy in the city, after which their careers have followed parallel paths. While Hardik has gone on to make his first-class debut and become an India international, 24-year-old Krunal, who also bowls left-arm spin, is seen as a limited-overs specialist. Krunal's auction signing at Rs 2 crore by the Mumbai Indians is astonishing considering he hasn't played any representative cricket for over a year due to a labral tear in his shoulder that required surgery.
Roorkee-Delhi-Rajasthan-Delhi. India Under-19s' left-handed opening batsman Rishabh Pant has covered a lot of distance in his early teens to make a name for himself. The 18-year-old switched schools, moved bases in the hunt for a coach and was even thrown out of an academy once. A few years later, he is opening the batting for India at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. His swashbuckling record-breaking fifty against Nepal established his credentials on the big stage and probably inflated his going rate to Rs 1.9 crore from a base price of Rs 10 lakh by the time he was bought by Delhi Daredevils. The fact that he was a talented batsman was established much earlier, as he made his first-class debut for Delhi in October last year. On Saturday, Pant hammered 111 as India beat Namibia to qualify for the semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup. As far as timing goes, he couldn't have scripted it any better.
The year 2016 has been particularly kind to the 23-year-old allrounder, who earned his maiden call-up to the Indian team for the home season that culminates with the World T20. The crowning glory was reserved for the weekend though, when Negi, with a base price of Rs 30 lakh, was snapped for Rs 8.5 crore by Delhi Daredevils. Building on his successful two-year stint with Chennai Super Kings, who signed him for Rs 10 lakh in 2014, the bowling allrounder was a revelation for Delhi in the limited-overs formats this season with consistent performances in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In the 20-over tournament this season, he averaged 86.50 from nine innings, and remained not out on six occasions, apart from picking up six wickets at an economy of 8.71 and a strike rate of 23.1.
Nicknamed "Hurricane" for his ability to change games in a jiffy, Deepak Hooda considers himself a batting allrounder and was one of India's go-to men during his Under-19s tenure in 2014. He displayed his batting prowess for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2015. While the team did the early running before fizzling away at the death, Hooda's sparkling performances with the bat didn't go unnoticed. The 20-year-old became the second player from Baroda, after Snehal Parikh, to score a century on first-class debut, in 2014. He was a regular feature for Baroda across formats in the season gone by. While his performances in the domestic T20s weren't particularly inspiring, his good deeds last season meant that Sunrisers Hyderabad were ready to snap him up for Rs 4.2 crore, 42 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh.
By his own admission, Nair - who was bought for an astounding Rs 4 crore by Delhi Daredevils - would say that his performances this season weren't up to the lofty standards he set for himself in the first two years. But his ability as a big-match player was established in his debut season in 2013-14, when he scored three successive centuries to lead Karnataka to the Ranji Trophy title. The following season, he made a triple-century in the final to help Karnataka not only successfully defend their crown, but also complete a double-treble of domestic titles. The 24-year-old was signed by Rajasthan Royals at Rs 75 lakh in 2014, where he established himself as an opener alongside Shane Watson and was a regular member of the now disbanded franchise. In August last year, Nair, who has also regularly featured in India A sides, earned his maiden national call-up when he joined the Test squad in Sri Lanka as a replacement player.
The 22-year-old is yet another promising pacer to have emerged from Uttar Pradesh after Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Rajpoot, rated highly by Venkatesh Prasad who was the state's head coach for two seasons, is a swing bowler, who relies on subtle changes in length. In all, he's picked up 70 wickets in 19 first-class games and was part of the Chennai Super Kings set-up for two seasons in 2013 and 2014. While opportunities were hard to come by, the UP bowler says he benefited from interacting with Andy Bichel, the former Australia pacer who worked as the franchise's bowling coach. Rajpoot was a key member in UP's victorious run at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy last month, and was the side's best bowler in the final, finishing with figures of 3 for 30. He was picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 1.5 crore.
Aditya Tare Mumbai's designated captain watched from the sidelines with a fractured thumb as his side beat Jharkhand to qualify for the Ranji Trophy semi-finals earlier in the day. That he was signed for Rs 1.2 crore by Sunrisers Hyderabad isn't much of a surprise, given his successful run with Mumbai Indians in the limited opportunities he has had. Parthiv Patel's performances at the top of the order meant a place in the XI eluded the 28-year-old for most parts during the title-winning run in 2015. A year earlier, he famously smashed a six to help Mumbai edge out Rajasthan Royals on net run rate and secure a berth in the playoffs. Tare, who succeeded Suryakumar Yadav as Mumbai captain, led his side to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals last year and has been credited for turning around the fortunes of the 40-time champions. That he top-scored for his side with 311 runs in eight outings in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at a strike rate of 138 further boosted his credentials.
Eklavya Dwivedi The 27-year-old's tryst with the IPL has been restricted to a handful of matches for the now disbanded Pune Warriors, whom he represented in 2012. Three full first-class seasons later, he's emerged as Uttar Pradesh's fulcrum in the middle order. Over time, he has also become the side's first-choice wicketkeeper, and has come up with pugnacious contributions time and again. His 35-ball 49 at No.6 during a tense chase against Delhi in a knockout clash of the T20 competition last month, he says, gave him tremendous self-belief to succeed in a format he didn't consider himself to be very good at. Four games prior to what he described a crucial knock, he struck a 53-ball 89 against Services to kickstart UP's winning campaign in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He joined the ranks of the Gujarat Lions franchise for a price of Rs 1 crore.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo