When RR’s Pace Hero Chetan Sakariya Nearly Abandoned His Dreams

Sakariya, who was a net bowler with RCB in IPL 2020, learnt about his debut on the eve of the RR’s’ season opener.

4 min read

On their opening day of IPL 2021, Rajasthan Royals, without the pace ace Jofra Archer, handed young Chetan Sakariya his debut. The task on hand was no doubt difficult as he was up against one of India’s best — KL Rahul, captain of Punjab Kings and the highest run-scorer last season.

On a night when 438 runs were scored in 40 overs, Sakariya came away with a brilliant figures on his big day, even though his side fell short. The left-armer was thrown into the deep end for the final over of the innings with KL Rahul going great guns and he conceded only 5 runs, picking the wickets of the Punjab captain and Jhye Richardson respectively.

His third wicket was that of Punjab opener Mayank Agarwal.

“KL Rahul was set and the plan was to not give him any pace. There was some help from the wicket for the bowlers as the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat and that helped get the wicket of KL Rahul. Our plan was to take wickets in the final over,” Sakariya told The Quint.

But, be that as it may, a teenage Sakariya had contemplated giving it all up when he suffered an injury because he bowled too much. Thankfully, for him and Rajasthan Royals, a school tournament came by just in time. The injury kept him away for a year, often raising doubts about his decision.

“My morale was quite low at that time because I had no guidance really and did not know what to do to overcome the injury. I was not getting picked for my state team or district teams and my friends and relatives would say that the road ahead is very tough. I felt low on confidence and thought maybe I won’t be able to do it and it would be better if I did something else. Such thoughts crossed my mind but then I played a school tournament and finally made my comeback.”

Ahead of IPL 2021’s opening day, former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara had emphasised how important the likes of Sakariya and Kartik Tyagi would be in backing up Jaydev Unadkat and Chris Morris. In their opening game, the Royals handed young Sakariya his IPL debut and he repaid the faith shown in him with figures of 3/31.

Sakariya, who was a net bowler with Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2020, learnt about his debut on the eve of the Royals’ season opener.

“I found out one day before the game during our team meeting when Sanga Sir declared the team. He told me that I’d be playing the first game. It felt good but there was also some pressure about delivering and helping the team win. But as soon as I entered the ground, I focussed on my bowling and thankfully it worked out well,” Sakariya said.

Chetan Sakariya celebrates a wicket on debut against Punjab Kings. 
Chetan Sakariya celebrates a wicket on debut against Punjab Kings. 
Image: BCCI

For the young man from Bhavnagar in Gujarat, life was not a bed of roses as he balanced studies, working with his uncle at his stationary business and cricket. The hard yards in age-group cricket then led him to the MRF Pace Foundation before the IPL’s calling came.

“As I started making progress at the junior level, he (maternal uncle) kept encouraging me. When I made the U-19 side, I was studying and working and then when I made it to the MRF Pace Foundation, my uncle told me to concentrate on cricket and said he would support me to the fullest,” Sakariya, who was able to focus on cricket whole-heartedly after his uncle took over the expenses, said.

While the long hours and injuries in the early stages aren’t exactly the happiest memories, Sakariya holds one session in the nets very close to his heart. Bowling to the more established Sheldon Jackson as a teenager, he was able to knock him over, winning his first pair of cricket spikes.

“This is when I was 17 years old and Sheldon bhai wanted to practice a little more because he wasn’t happy with his game. He challenged me to dismiss him in a certain number of deliveries and said that if I did, he would gift me a new pair of spikes. I got his wicket off the third or fourth ball and as per his promise, he gave me a new pair of shoes.”

“Wearing new spikes when you bowl is a very different feeling,” a visibly delighted Sakariya said.

When asked about what he’d like to achieve in the IPL, the responses are crystal clear.

“I want to take a hat-trick once in the IPL,” the left-arm pacer says.

The Rajasthan Royals bowler followed up his three-wickets with yet another three-wicket haul against Chennai Super Kings after going wicketless against the Delhi Capitals. Against CSK, he took the wickets of Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni.

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