There are stories and then there are fairy tales. Rajasthan Royals have a tradition of unearthing young Indian gems over the course of their journey in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Although they did not get off to a winning start, the Royals unleashed a new budding star in their opening game of the season against the Punjab Kings in Mumbai on Tuesday. Left-arm medium-fast swing bowler – Chetan Sakariya returned with 3-31 in his 4 overs on IPL debut and impressed one and all with his craft and variations.
He conceded a couple of boundaries and gave away 10 runs in his first over. But Samson persisted with the rookie bowler and the latter did not disappoint. After bowling a number of deliveries that came back in, he pushed one away from the right-hander Agarwal also varying the length a touch by pitching it slightly fuller – the result was an edge to the skipper behind the stumps. Sakariya had his first victim and it was a big one! He gave away just a solitary single and bowled a couple of dot balls to the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle in the powerplay.
Sakariya then displayed his prowess with the ball with Deepak Hooda and Rahul in full bloom at the death. He kept the pair in check mixing up his line and length and varying his pace – from short-pitched deliveries to the slower one outside the off stump to cramping the batsman for room to the yorker – Sakariya was brilliant in the first four deliveries of the over and showed no nerves of the big stage in what was his first match in the most coveted league in the world.
Sakariya ended with figures of 3-31 in his 4 overs and was the most restrictive bowler of the high-scoring match. He delivered as many as 13 dot balls in his spell which was a phenomenal effort by the debutant.
Sakariya was picked for INR 1.2 crore by the Royals in the mini-auction in February after going for trials with them and the Mumbai Indians. He was also a part of the RCB contingent as a net bowler in the UAE last year. He has mostly self-coached himself and risen up the ranks playing a lot of tennis-ball cricket.
Born in Vartej, a small township some 180 kms away from Rajkot, Sakariya belonged to a humble background and has been the lone bread earner for his family in the last few years. He worked with his uncle at a stationary shop in Bhavnagar to make ends meet.
Sakariya first rose to prominence when he picked 18 wickets for Saurashtra in the Cooch Behar Trophy in 2015 which gave him an opportunity to train under Glenn McGrath under the MRF Pace Foundation. He made his first-class debut for Saurashtra in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. Sakariya has played 15 first-class and 7 List-A matches but it is his returns in the T20 format which stand out. The left-armer has bagged 31 wickets in just 17 matches at a strike rate of 12.3 and economy rate of 7.13 in all T20 cricket.
He was impressive in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament picking 12 wickets in 5 matches at a stunning economy rate of 4.9 – this was his gateway to the IPL as a number of IPL talent scouts took interest in the bowler.
Sakariya lost his brother just a few weeks prior to the auction but did not let the personal tragedy shatter his hopes of playing top-level cricket in the IPL. Known for his ability to swing the ball and his accuracy and discipline, the left-armer gave a glimpse of his talent and ability in his very first match of the best and most competitive T20 league in the world – his quality of being economical against the most dominating batsmen at the other end again stood out.