Karn Sharma had left home for the nearby cricket ground in Meerut much before his name had come up at the IPL auction on Thursday. This was, after all, his first ever experience as an uncapped player of being put up ‘on sale’. With not long to go for his name to prop up at the auction, the 26-year-old Railways man just couldn’t take the anxiety anymore, preferring to face a few local bowlers to keep his mind off proceedings in Bangalore.
While at nets, Sharma received a call from his wife. He was relieved to hear about being retained by Sunrisers Hyderbad, but the leggie couldn’t believe his ears when told that his franchise had spent Rs 3.75 crore to do so.
“I asked her to stop joking around and tell me exactly how much I had been bought for. My base price was just Rs 30 lakh. It was only when I checked the figure on the internet and received a call from Amit Mishra that I believed it,” says Sharma.
Sharma’s astonishment was understandable. He had been an important cog in the Sunrisers wheel during their maiden IPL season last year, picking up 11 wickets at an economy of 6.6. He had also played a couple of vital knocks with the bat to see his team home, while also attracting attention for managing to keep the likes of MS Dhoni and Michael Hussey quiet with his accuracy and guile.
Railman dreams big
But not even in his wildest dreams, he admits, did the Railways fitter, a Grade II post, expect to land up with the fattest pay-cheque among the hundreds of uncapped Indian players who went under the hammer on the second day of the auction.
“The most money I had seen come my way in my life previously was the Rs 20 lakh contract that I got in the IPL from Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2009. I don’t even know what 3.75 crore looks like. The most pleasing aspect for me about the auction was how so many teams were bidding for me,” he adds.
While his family hails from Meerut, Sharma has been posted in Varanasi ever since he joined the Railways back in 2005. Though he was initially roped in as a Grade IV employee, the former junior Uttar Pradesh cricketer was given the leeway of not having to perform the duties entailed at his level, odd jobs like lifting iron rods or working on the tracks.
“It involved some paperwork at the office, which I had to visit regularly. But that happened only during my first year after which I started playing cricket on a full-time basis,” he says.
Ever since, the spinner has seen himself being promoted as a fitter, a position that otherwise necessitates working at the nuts and bolts in the engine along with other responsibilities.
“The salary is decent, about Rs 17,000 per month, and I live in the quarters there. It’s not too far from home so I get to visit Meerut often. They have been very supportive of my cricket throughout,” says Sharma.
Sharma made his debut for Railways in the Ranji Trophy in 2007, and has played 33 first-class games in what has been an intermittent career. His decision to opt for sport as a future was supported mainly by his mother, a teacher and a former state-level badminton player.
“I grew up in a middle-class household. But my parents ensured that I always got what I required in terms of cricket equipment and otherwise. My father has always given me the license to do what I want to and today he is as pleasantly shocked as I am with the IPL contract that’s come my way,” says Sharma.
The Railways leggie insists that it’ll take some more time for the reality of the Rs 3.75 crore contract to sink in, and he still has no concrete plans of what he’s going to do with it. For the record, Sharma reveals to have bought a villa in Meerut with the aide of his maiden IPL contract.
For now, he’s only keen on replicating last year’s unprecedented success with the ball in Sunrisers’ colours again. The last 12 months have probably been the most eventful in Sharma’s life. Apart from having seen his stocks rise to meteoric levels, he also got married in the interim. And it’s only inevitable now, feels Sharma, that most of the credit has been going his wife’s way.
He says, “Ghar mein sab bol toh rahe hai ki woh aayi aur Laxmi aayi.”