A story for the ages, Chetan Sakariya’s meteoric rise in the past six months has seen the youngster put Gujarat’s Bhavnagar on the map when it comes to cricket. Having been snapped up by the Rajasthan Royals at the IPL Auction for ₹1.2 crores, the left-arm pacer went on to impress everyone with his bowling in the first phase of IPL 2021, picking up 7 wickets in as many matches.
Speaking from his home in the city of Bhavnagar, Chetan reflected on the past six months, “When I was picked up by Rajasthan Royals, the only thing running in my mind was that they have shown so much faith in me, I wanted to make sure that I was performing well and helping the team win. I think I did a decent job whenever I was given the responsibility.”
“Then to make it to the Indian team, it has been a dream come true. When I first heard of it, there were a lot of thoughts in my head, but I was unable to believe it. I pinched myself because I was wondering if it was even true. I didn’t think of it in a way that I would get to play or not, just being a part of that dressing room was a huge moment for me,” he added.
The 23-year-old was accompanied by Royals’ captain Sanju Samson during their recent tour of Sri Lanka, and shared an anecdote from their conversation. “When we were at RR earlier this year and I had played a few matches, we were in the nets talking about how I could get my pace up, but Sanju bhai called me and said, ‘You’re doing well and are unique because you have the swing, so you should try to bowl fast but make sure that it doesn’t affect your ability to swing the ball. Remember my words when I say that you’ll play for India very soon.’ So, as soon as I got selected for India and we met in Sri Lanka, he made me remember that day and asked me to keep focusing on the right things and wished me well. So that was really nice of him.”
Chetan also shared what his coach and former Rajasthan Royals skipper Rahul Dravid said to him during their first interaction. “After having completed a two-week quarantine in Sri Lanka, we had a get together and everyone was either working out or stretching outdoors, and I was taking a rest near the poolside when Rahul sir came up to me and said, ‘Hi Chetan, Rahul here.’ I was shocked and startled at first because I couldn’t believe that it was really him, but I stood up and said ‘hi’ to him. I introduced myself and he asked me about my family background, playing experience, etc. He also asked about cricket in Saurashtra and how we’ve been doing well in the last five years, and complimented me for my bowling and said he had followed my journey during the IPL, and that he liked how I bowled with the new and the old ball. So, it felt amazing that a legend like him knew who I was and was following my performances.”
The youngster added he was also fortunate to have trained with Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the tour. “I met Bhuvi bhai during the nets, and saw him bowling consistently at one spot, so I asked him what the secret behind it was, and he told me that the secret was to feel the action, and make sure that the focus is on each step during the run-up. So that was special, and I’ve tried doing that as well.”
2021 has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for the pacer, and he stated that he was going through all kinds of emotions before he bowled his first ball in international cricket. “When I was preparing to bowl that first ball, I had a couple of minutes to go through marking my run-up, warming up etc., and in that moment, I could see a flashback of everything that had unfolded in my life – the good, the bad, the sacrifices, the support, the criticism - everything. So, it was emotional but gave me a lot of motivation to do well and that was the thought in my mind.”
Preparing for the remainder of the IPL season, Chetan had spent some time in Chennai under the guidance of RR’s Strength & Conditioning Coach AT Rajamani Prabhu. “I had about two weeks where I wanted to focus on explosive training because T20 is a format where you need to produce that explosive energy any time in the game. So, I was working a lot on that under humid conditions, which certainly helped me retain my fitness levels during the off-season.”
Also reflecting on his performances during the first phase of the IPL, Chetan said, “I think focusing on the process helped me. When I was new into the IPL, I had doubts but once I bowled that first ball, that first over and played that first match, I realized that it was the same thing that I had been doing since my younger days. The only difference was that the intensity was much higher in the IPL, and it was more of a game that depended on mental toughness.”
With the Rajasthan Royals occupying the 5th spot in the table ahead of resumption, Chetan reckons that his team has a good chance of making it to the playoffs. “I think whichever matches we won were extraordinary matches, like we were able to achieve the unachievable targets. And whichever matches we lost, were close matches except the RCB one. Therefore, I just want to focus on doing well for my team because I know that if I’m able to contribute, we will be able to win and hopefully make it to the playoffs.”
Signing off, Chetan gave away the secret behind his smile and calmness on the field, “I always think of the worst outcome, and then I tell myself that I need to focus on what is under my control, and that is to bowl a good ball. More often than not, it has helped me in my career. I try to enjoy my game as much as I can, and that is where the smile also comes from.”