<
>

'I sat inside the washroom when my bidding was on'

What do you do when your name is up for bidding at an IPL auction?

Keeping a close eye on the TV screen or the internet perhaps seems the most logical thing, right? For Rajasthan's Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who is now an India Under-19 sensation currently working up speed guns in New Zealand at the World Cup, the anxiety levels had hit the roof.

On one hand, his phone was buzzing with messages. On the other, his room-mate's inquisitiveness was making him anxious.

"Andar se thoda nervous tha mai (I was a little nervous from within)," Nagarkoti says as he traces the events leading into his eventual bid of INR 3.2 crore (USD 500,000 approx) by Kolkata Knight Riders. "My friends kept calling non-stop, but I didn't pick up the phone. I didn't watch my bidding.

"When my room partner Pankaj Yadav turned on the live stream, I couldn't take it. I said 'yaar, main jaa raha hoon (mate, I'm off). I went and sat inside the washroom even as my bidding kept going on."

He came out once the hammer went down and reached out to his phone to speak to his parents, who were equally overwhelmed with emotion. They, along with his childhood coach Surendra Singh Rathod, had received multiple requests for interviews from the local news channels, which they were patiently obliging.

It was, in a way, a coming together of a trio - along with Nagarkoti's older brother - who decided to invest their savings on his cricket. Nagarkoti's father, a subedar in the Indian army, bought a one-bedroom apartment in Jaipur from his retirement corpus so that his son could play cricket.

"TV channels were home to interview them, so I couldn't talk for long, but they were happy," Nagarkoti says. "Later, someone tagged them being interviewed on Facebook. They were very happy. I'd only ever watched one IPL match at the stadium before this. To be playing now is a great feeling. I was watching Chris Lynn batting in the BBL on TV. Now I'll get a chance to bowl to him in the nets. It's quite unbelievable."

Nagarkoti, who was a "big fan of Rajasthan Royals" because of the franchise being from his state, went to sleep soon after, but remembers waking up at 4am and being unable to sleep since.

Half an hour prior to his frenetic bidding, though, Nagarkoti and Abhishek Sharma were having fun at Shubman Gill's expense, even as his name came up for bidding. Gill's was the first among members of the India Under-19 team at the auction table. Even as the marquee set of players were up for grabs, Gill's phone kept constantly buzzing: he knew why.

It was well past 11pm in Christchurch, the time they've all generally been going to bed every day. But this was different. Gill finally gave in and switched on the live stream.

"When I finally saw online, my bid was at INR 1.2 crore," Gill says with a sheepish smile. His first reaction was: "I'm in the IPL." The price didn't matter, so he switched it off. Ten minutes after the hammer went down, Gill received a call from his mother. He had just been sold for INR 1.8 crore (USD 281,000 approx).

"I haven't yet thought about who I will get to play with or who all I can learn from," Gill says. "It feels very good to get a chance, but it's important to live in the present and focus on the India-Pakistan semi-final. [Rahul] Dravid sir had a meeting with us. He said IPL auction will keep happening every year so we shouldn't worry about being picked or not and to just focus on the Under-19 World Cup because we won't have this opportunity again in our lives."

Gill, the more reserved of the two, remembered the sacrifices his father made early in his career. The family had agricultural lands in Fazilka in Punjab, where Gill's father deployed helpers at his farm to throw balls at him and keep him engaged. They would bowl tirelessly for hours, unable to satisfy Gill's thirst for more.

When his father was convinced of his talent, he moved from Fazilka to Mohali, where they rented a house in the vicinity of the PCA Stadium, not because Gill would get a chance to train there yet but because he would be able to visualise himself training at the academy there and perhaps one day play on the centre pitch.

"Pappa ne de diya party un logo ko (dad has already given them a party last night)," Gill laughs, when asked if his father's staff deserved a sham share of the Knight Riders contract. "When I moved to Mohali, there was an India-Pakistan Test around then. I wanted to go and train there as a kid. I knew if I play well, I'll get a chance."

Gill and Nagarkoti come from the smaller towns, the unbridled joy and innocence shining through as they remembered how things transpired. For Prithvi Shaw, who grew up in Mumbai and was touted a child prodigy at 14, living with high expectations on his shoulder isn't quite new.

"I was expecting a question at the press conference [on the auction] the other day itself. The wry smile was about that," Shaw says when asked about his INR 1.2 crore (USD 187,000 approx) contract with Delhi Daredevils.

"I'm happy, but really it doesn't matter which team I'm part of. Being in that environment will help my game. But for now, the focus is here and to be in the present. If we keep thinking about the auction, mentally we will be in that zone."

That's three happy people with different responses, some instinctive, some thought out. But they all share some common themes: a passion and love for the game, wanting to live in the present, and a focus on winning the Under-19 World Cup.