ASSAM MEDIUM pacer Krishna Das admits he was extremely distracted on Saturday morning. His side had just trounced favourites Punjab at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Valsad to seal a spot in the Ranji Trophy semifinals for the first time. As teammates and coach Sanath Kumar got into a huddle to kickstart their celebrations, Krishna was busy checking out his swanky new smartphone. Surely, the win and the occasion was momentous, but something did not seem right. Krishna appeared a tad anxious. He later reveals that he had been following the IPL auction in Bengaluru on his smartphone. “My name was shortlisted in the IPL Draft and my base price was Rs 10 lakh. I kept checking on social media to see if I had been picked by any of the franchises,” he says.
Krishna’s name in the IPL draft surely does not come as a surprise. The 25-year-old from Barpeta has been in the middle of prolific wicket-taking form this season, notching up 47 scalps from nine games. Along with childhood friend Arup, the duo have tormented their opponents with seam and swing. As things stand, he is currently the highest wicket-taker among other fast bowlers this Ranji season. On a personal level, he had been hoping all these wickets on the Ranji circuit would translate in a IPL call-up.
“Any youngster graduating from the Ranji level would want to play for India, and IPL is the perfect platform to showcase your talent,” he says. Sadly for Krishna, his exploits in the Ranji Trophy were not enough for him to seal a place in the IPL. By around 5pm on Saturday, the time when the auction had ended, Krishna was not picked by any of the franchises.
His teammates and coach concede their premier strike bowler was dejected. Suddenly, the Ranji win, and all the wickets he had taken, seemed to be a thing of the distant past. The Assam team, headed by coach Sanath Kumar had planned to take his boys to the Valsad beach in the evening. Krishna, however, decided to skip the outing. He instead chose to remain in the confines of his hotel room. “He was banking heavily on the IPL auction. The whole thing has left him dejected. It seems like he has gone into a shell. What’s the point of performing so consistently at the domestic level, when you are repeatedly ignored at the national level?” Kumar says.
To many, Krishna’s exclusion from the IPL may sound baffling, but franchisees have a mind of their own, and selections at such auctions usually defy cricketing logic. Every year, IPL auctions throw up their own unique stories of surprise picks and omissions. The story at this auction has been how the franchisees chose to ignore in-form Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja, and instead chose to splurge on Nathu Singh, a rookie tearaway from Rajasthan.
In India, there is a growing class divide of sorts between players who play the IPL and others who don’t. Like Krishna, Nathu too went into this auction with a low base price of Rs 10 lakh. However, Nathu went with the reputation of being the quickest bowler on the domestic circuit, and his rags-to-riches story worked in his favour. The result being the 19-year-old was picked up by the Mumbai Indians for a whopping Rs 3.2 crore.
Ankit Rajpoot and Jaydev Unadkat are perhaps two classic examples of domestic bowlers who got lucky. Like Krishna, Rajpoot too went into the auction at a lowly base price of Rs 10 lakh, only to be picked up by the KKR for Rs 1.5 crore. Left arm seamer Unadkat, whose base price was Rs 30 lakh, was also snapped up by the Knight Riders for Rs 1.6 crore.
A major criticism levelled at Krishna has been that bulk of his 47 wickets this season have come on rank green tops, which suited his style of bowling.
He quells such talk by saying, “The conditions on offer were there for other bowlers as well. I just managed to exploit them the best, which is why I got so many wickets.” Talk about his limited exposure in the shorter formats, and Krishna is quick to mention his spirited bowling display in the recent Deodhar Trophy. Against an India B side, which boasted of hard hitters such as Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal, the Barpeta lad held his own, picking up 2/32 from 9 overs. “Currently, I am at the top of my form and fitness. Hence, being overlooked for an event like the IPL is slightly frustrating,” he adds.
Going forward, he hopes his hard work will pay him dividends, and in the long run he will be able to realise his long cherished dream: playing a Test match for India.
For someone, who returned to cricket after a traumatic car collision in his teens after sitting out owing to the career threatening back injury, this IPL snub is just an aberration in his chequered career. For the time being, Krishna needs to summon all his resources once again to help Assam chase history when they take on Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy semifinals.