February 18, 2021 was a life-changing day for Karnataka all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham. He became the highest paid uncapped player in the history of IPL auctions as Chennai Super Kings acquired his services at a mind-boggling sum of ₹9.25 crores.
He started at a base price of just ₹20 lakhs but interest from two other franchises -- Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad -- apart from CSK, meant his final price soared up to 46.25 times that of his base price. That is life-changing money indeed.
Gowtham's Life-Long Wish to Play Under MS Dhoni
The 32-year-old had been picked up for a sum of ₹6.2 crores by Rajasthan Royals in the IPL Auction of 2018 as well. But Gowtham says that more than the money, it was the feeling of playing under MS Dhoni's leadership that made this auction far more special than that of the 2018 edition.
"This was more special because I always wanted to play under Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni)," Gowtham said in an exclusive interview to The Quint.
“It feels surreal. Not because of the finance but mainly because of the knowledge I am going to get to make my game better. The way Mahi Bhai and CSK, as a franchise, conduct themselves, the way they take care of their players, is just outstanding. That’s why CSK is one of the best franchises, or rather the most successful franchise I should say.”K Gowtham
Gowtham described the experience of the auction day as 'emotional' and 'nerve-wracking'. Even though he had a stellar debut IPL season with Rajasthan Royals, during which he picked up 11 wickets and scored 126 runs, which included a match-winning knock of 33* against Mumbai Indians as well, things in the last couple of seasons haven't been easy for him.
He featured in just seven matches for the Royals in 2019, picking up only one wicket and scoring 18 runs, and was traded to the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) subsequently. He was hoping for better things with them in IPL 2020 but all he got was just two matches once again, after which he was released by the franchise.
Gowtham on Starting From 'Scratch' Once Again
That means he was back into the Auction pool once again. The morale and confidence of most players should be quite low after enduring such a tough couple of seasons. But Gowtham is temperamentally very strong and likes to stay positive. So he wasn't afraid to start afresh and he is happy that things turned out so well for him in the end.
“I think we all start somewhere. We all start from scratch. That’s what I did in 2018, so I thought of keeping it that way as I was entering the auction once again and see where it goes from there,” Gowtham said.
"What I have always been wishing for is coming true. So I am looking to make the most of this opportunity and enjoy every bit of it," he added.
Before CSK acquired Gowtham's services for a record fee, KKR and SRH were also in the race to get him. The two franchises were involved in the bidding war for him until his price reached ₹7.50 crores. When asked about whether he preferred going to any of the teams among the two, Gowtham said that he just wanted an opportunity to prove his ability. Where he went didn't really matter to him as long as he was getting the opportunity to play regularly.
"Wherever I go, I need an opportunity to showcase my talent. That is the most important criteria. Getting picked in the Auction is not in my control, what is in my control is to just sit and wait for the team that picks me and then perform for them in the opportunities I am given. That is my primary goal and objective," he said.
Gowtham on Picking Ravichandran Ashwin's Brain
Gowtham is looking forward to the upcoming IPL season but he is focused more on the job on his hand right now. He is currently in the bio-bubble with the Indian Team as a net-bowler for the ongoing Test series against England and he is looking to learn as much as possible from India's ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
"Right now my focus is completely on picking his brain and learning as much as I can from him while I am the net bowler for India. He is the best spinner in the country, or rather I should say the best spinner in the world right now," said the Karnataka all-rounder.
"I keep talking to him about how he gets so much consistency and control in the match while bowling. Even when I am confused about the things I am doing, I go up to him and ask for his advice. I ask him about the things which can help me improve. The best thing is he is always there to help me in whatever way possible. He never says no."
Apart from Gowtham, CSK picked up Cheteshwar Pujara at his base price of ₹50 Lakhs in the IPL Auction as well. He is there in the bubble too, preparing for the third Test against England in Ahmedabad. Gowtham said that even though they have had a very brief chat about the IPL Auction, they made sure that they congratulated each other.
"Yeah, we have had a brief chat about it. Both of us congratulated each other but as I said, our primary focus is on the Test series right now. So we haven't had much discussion about the Auction or the upcoming IPL season, but I am definitely looking forward to playing with him."
There are high chances that Gowtham will be a part of CSK playing XI regularly in the upcoming IPL season. After all, he is the only Indian off-spinner they have and his big-hitting ability only adds further firepower to their Lower-order. Expectations will be high from him considering the amount CSK have invested in him but Gowtham says that he won't be thinking about it much as co about the price-tag won't allow him to give his best on the field.
"I can't go out on the field and have just the price-tag on my mind. What I should really think about is how I am going to bowl, or how I am going to bat. I have played so many T20 matches and that gives me confidence that I'll do well for CSK. The price-tag hardly makes me nervous," he said.
Gowtham has very modest numbers in the 24 IPL matches he has played so far. However, his stint with CSK will give him an opportunity to improve that and show what he is really capable of.