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Meet Chetan Sakariya - who overcame personal tragedy to make it to the IPL

The 23-year-old swing bowler makes his debut for Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Chetan Sakariya made his IPL debut at the first opportunity  •  BCCI

Chetan Sakariya made his IPL debut at the first opportunity  •  BCCI

Chetan Sakariya is a 23-year-old fast bowler, who made his debut for Saurashtra in 2018-19. He was picked up for INR 1.2 crore in the IPL 2021 auction by the Rajasthan Royals, and made his IPL debut at the first opportunity, named in the XI for the Royals' opening game of IPL 2021, against the Punjab Kings. Here's a sketch of how Sakariya has come through the ranks, battling personal tragedies and other challenges.
Who is Chetan Sakariya?
A left-arm swing bowler who hails from Vartej, a hamlet 180 kilometres west of Rajkot. Sakariya grew up wanting to be a batsman, but turned towards fast bowling when he was in class XI because that helped students get a lot of 'bhaav' (attention) in school.
Has he taken the traditional route to cricket?
Not really. Sakariya has risen through the ranks playing tennis-ball cricket, and much of his skill-set is self-taught. It wasn't until he was 16 that he had formal coaching of any kind.
Did he trial for multiple IPL teams?
He trialled with the Mumbai Indians and the Royals. He was eventually picked up by the Royals at the February auction for INR 1.2 crores for his maiden IPL stint. In 2020, he was part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore contingent in UAE as a net bowler. The 2021 auction was bittersweet, because Sakariya lost his younger brother, who died by suicide just three weeks prior to that.
What are his strengths?
Swing and accuracy. He bowls mainly in the mid-130s. But improving pace, he says, is a "work in progress." Sakariya has a distinct jump in his run-up, like Pakistan's Junaid Khan - a springboard of sorts to give him momentum in his run-up.
What has he done so far in domestic cricket?
He made his senior team debut during the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season, and has so far featured in 15 first-class games, seven List A games and 16 T20s. In March 2020, he was part of Saurashtra's Ranji Trophy winning team. Earlier this season, he picked up 12 wickets in five SMA T20 matches at an economy of 4.90. This helped him get noticed by the IPL talent scouts.
What were his early years like?
Sakariya first made waves locally when he impressed for Saurashtra six years ago in the Cooch Behar Trophy, where he picked up 18 wickets in six games, including 5 for 84 against Karnataka Under-19 to help his side get a first-innings lead. These performances led to him earning a scholarship and getting a chance to train under Glenn McGrath at the MRF Pace Foundation.
There's a story that he didn't even have boots to play...
Yes, that's right. This was around the time he was also being talked of as a potential prospect for Saurashtra's senior team. Sheldon Jackson, the senior batsman who also hails from Bhavnagar, where Sakariya trained, gave him his first pair of boots after Sakariya had dismissed him in the nets, just before he left to train at the MRF Pace Foundation. The two have developed a strong bond since and train together in Bhavnagar.
What is unique about his journey
Sakariya has been the lone breadwinner for his family for the last few years, after his father has largely been forced to shut his tempo business due to ill-health. He couldn't afford his son's cricket expenses, and it wasn't until Sakariya's maternal uncle stepped in that he was able to focus fully on the game.
There's a story about him working to make ends meet, outside of cricket too?
True. This was around the time he was injured as a 17-year-old. A lack of knowledge about workloads led to him overworking himself in trying to bowl fast. He was out of the game for nearly a year, and his family wanted him to do something. His maternal uncle took him under his wing and took care of his fees and cricket expenses, in exchange for some time to help him with his wholesale stationary dealership in Bhavnagar. Sakariya, who had wanted to pursue science and engineering, used to make bills, tally accounts, update passbooks, issue cheques, and take care of payments among other duties. Sakariya worked with him for two and a half years, until he became a regular for Saurashtra Under-19s.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo