This was by far the most chaotic day in Jaydev Unadkat's life. Not busy but "chaos", he pointed out with a resounding laugh. There have been big days in his life, like his Test debut in South Africa in 2010, but "chaos-wise" nothing comes close. When Rajasthan Royals picked him up for INR 11.5 crore (USD 1.8 million approx), making him the most expensive Indian player in the IPL auction, the 26-year-old experienced a joyous chaos that had eluded him for several years.
Cut to a few hours later and it still remains near-impossible to get through to him on the phone. Unadkat has missed and answered several calls - he put the number at somewhere between 30 and 40 - drained his battery twice, and given a bunch of interviews. But, for most of the afternoon, he was away tending to the skills that helped him become a millionaire.
Unadkat had planned to watch the auction with his family at his home in Porbandar on Saturday, but his name didn't come up. He had to report to training in Rajkot ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, and his only request to his team-mates was a heads-up when his auction was underway. But they had bigger plans.
"When my name came up we watched it on the phone. We stopped the nets for five minutes and watched it together," Unadkat told ESPNcricinfo. "They were going mad and shouting every minute. They were congratulating [me] and they were congratulating each other. They were almost more happy than I was. It is great to see people genuinely happy for you. They haven't let me go [without throwing a party], they have just postponed it. We have planned to have a blast when we are in Hyderabad for Vijay Hazare. They feel they can get the most out of me there rather than here, when we are all together staying in a good hotel," he said with a laugh.
"Rather than taking the price tag - everyone talks about the price - I have been saying to all of them that for me it is about the confidence I would get out of this"
Following the auction real-time can be nerve-wracking for any player, so training in the company of his team-mates proved a welcome distraction for Unadkat. "To be honest, I was just going through the moments, I was flowing through it," he said. "I didn't actually know how to take it. It was actually good that I was surrounded by my team-mates and we were doing our routines. I was bowling before my auction came up and I was batting straight away in the nets soon after the auction ended.
"I didn't find any difficulty focusing, to be honest. I was very happy, I was flying, People were teasing me at the nets and laughing through it. But, it was good because I was there with all of them. I would have been more into it [the auction] if I had been doing nothing and sitting at home.
"I was trying to keep myself grounded. I didn't even pick up any calls or talk to my family till the practice ended two-three hours after the auction. I started taking calls after a couple of hours and I am doing that since then till now!" he said.
Speaking of home, Unadkat had to contend with two dramatically different reactions from within his family. While euphoria spiked at his sister's home in Rajkot, their mum and dad were a bit more subdued. "When I spoke to my parents, they were a bit nervous and had thoughts about the pressures and expectations that would come with it," he said. "They said they froze when the auction was going on. [It was] not really the case at my sister's place where they were jumping in joy. Two kinds of families with different emotions," he said with a laugh.
While batsmen and allrounders have walked away with huge sums of money in previous auctions, this is the first time an Indian fast bowler has commanded such a price and it is something Unadkat takes a lot of pride in. He put it down to his hardwork paying off at the right time. "It is something I can only dream of and it has a lot of to do with the blessings and wishes of everyone around me," he said.
"Whoever wants to do well puts in the hard yards that I do, and at some point of time to be able to execute those things when needed and to grab my chances… I think, yes fortune does play a part, but fortune favours the brave. I have plastered this message on the wall in my gym: 'the more I practise, the luckier I get.' If you are honest and if you are doing everything, luck plays a part."
"When I spoke to my parents, they were a bit nervous and had thoughts about the pressures and expectations that would come with it"
While Unadkat expected to be fetched for a good price - he has attracted lucrative deals in past auctions as well - he admitted he couldn't have predicted the final, mind-boggling figure. He was ultimately picked up for nearly seven times his reserve price. "To be honest, I didn't expect any particular amount out of this auction," he said. "Having kept my base price at INR 1.5 crore, I was sure that I would get some good pickings and I was hopeful a couple of teams would go after me.
"Now, to be getting this price, it depends on how desperate those teams are to get me. That's something that comes as the auction plays out. It's actually overwhelming for me to get the price I went for. It will be dumb if I said I was expecting it; no one would say that."
There were more good tidings in store for Unadkat, as he learnt of his inclusion in India's squad for the three-match T20I series in South Africa. This wasn't so much of a surprise though after he finished with the Man-of-the-Series award after 2-1 win over Sri Lanka last month. He had picked up four wickets at an economy rate of less than five.
Unadkat has been in fine form ever since he made a mark as an effective death bowler in the last IPL, finishing with 24 wickets for Rising Pune Supergiant and he agreed that might have factored into the bid he received. "I think I did well in the IPL but that was a year ago. I did well in Sri Lanka just a month ago," he said. "It gives them a feeling that I am doing what I have been doing in the last IPL. I am still doing it and I am still in good rhythm."
While Unadkat was eager to cement his spot in the national side, he also looked forward to reuniting with Steven Smith and good friend Ben Stokes, who had sent him a congratulatory text. "It's comforting [to be playing with the same group of players], for sure," he said. "A few of them - Ben Stokes, Ajinkya [Rahane] and I - have all been together in Pune. The combination we build at Rajasthan will be around that. I think it will be easier for all of us to build the core of the team, and get the gelling going."
Even as inevitable "stay-grounded" advice starts doing the rounds, Unadkat insisted he had no reason to get carried away. The takeaways, he felt, were more than just money. "Rather than taking the price tag - everyone talks about the price - I have been saying to all of them that for me it is about the confidence I would get out of this," he said. "The number of people looking at me to do well for them and going all out for me - there is no better place to get confidence from. If people want you to back your skills to the fullest, there is something I am doing right. I am taking it as a massive confidence-booster for me.
"But having said that, it again comes down to the roots. I talked to my mom in the afternoon. All that she said, like every time, was: 'Stay grounded and be humble and don't get carried away.' She keeps on reminding me about those things and they are not going out of my mind for sure."
Unadkat's immediate priority, though, is: "I hope I get my sleep to the fullest. After all the madness, I have a practice session in the morning to attend, so I need my sleep for sure."