As in the previous years, the IPL 2017 auction has thrown up some surprises. While everyone's eyes were glued on big guns such as Virat Kohli and Ben Stokes, it was Tamil Nadu's left-arm pacer, Thangarasu Natarajan, who stole the show on Monday.
Natarajan's journey from a small village in Tamil Nadu's Salem district to the glitzy world of the Indian Premier League is nothing short of a fairy tale. Up until he was in his late teens, Natarajan only played tennis-ball cricket and it was only after A Jayaprakash, a former fourth-division cricketer and his neighbour, took him to Chennai for formal training in cricket that his game developed.
"I was 18 or 19 years old then. He gave me a brand new leather ball and told me to start bowling with it. I told him I didn't have any use for it, as I had never dreamt of becoming a cricketer. But he looked into my eyes and told me I could become a big star with the ball," said Natarajan.
He got his first big break when he was 20, and then there was no looking back. From playing fourth division cricket in 2010-11 to being chosen for the state team in 2015, Natarajan rose steadily. He has had his share of ups and downs too, such as the time when he was reported for suspect action and was sent back to modify it.
"My teammates comforted me, but I started to look at myself as a cheat. I thought of returning home and helping my parents," he said.
But, Bharat Reddy, the Jolly Rovers coach, stopped him from going back and motivated him to rectify his action. "He told me not to sulk, because it wasn't going to help anybody... 'Even Muttiah Muralitharan was reported for suspect action, and look where he's now,' he told me. His words gave me a lot of courage. I decided to fight before giving up," said Natarajan.
Natarajan finally resurfaced in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and soon earned a regular spot in the state team.
From a base price of ₹10 lakh, the 25-year-old ended up being the highest paid Indian uncapped player in the IPL auction when Kings XI Punjab shelled out ₹3 crore for him after a bidding war.
South Indian spinster T Natarajan will feature in our squad this season. Bought for 3 Cr. Welcome to the Pride boy! pic.twitter.com/VLqGtalBhO— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) February 20, 2017
"I am not thinking of the money right now. I never imagined getting so much money. I don't even know how many zeroes are there in three crore," Natarajan, who is just nine first-class matches and five T20 matches old, chuckled during a chat with the Hindustan Times. "I am just thrilled to be part of the IPL, which will help me develop my bowling."
The son of a daily wager, Natarajan plans to use the IPL money to build a house and fund his siblings' higher studies. "My first priority is to build a decent house. My sisters want to study further, one wants to do engineering and other wants to be a Chartered Accountant. This money will come in handy," he said.
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