While the Indian Premier League has time and again given youngsters the perfect platform to prove their worth, there are certain players who end up receiving the wrong end of the stick. The millionaires of today have in the past, witnessed the lowest of lows when franchises showed no interest in their talent. The superstars of today, such as Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya were names that no one knew until the IPL gave them a chance. And over the years, the tradition has only continued as the likes of T Natarajan, Harshal Patel, Venkatesh Iyer and more reaped the benefits of a good IPL season to make their India debuts. (Also Read: 7 missed calls… BCCI said ‘we want you to take over from tomorrow at any cost’: How Ravi Shastri became team director)
While certain players have been successful in leaving behind an instant impression, others have taken time to make waves. One such name that comes to mind is Harshal Patel. The 31-year-old really came into his elements in IPL 2021, where he won the Purple Cap with a record-equalling 32 wickets. The high of last year’s IPL fetched him a price tag of ₹10.75 crore at the IPL 2022 mega auction two months ago and paved the way of his India cap.
However, there was a time where things weren’t as hunky-dory for Harshal. From 2012 to 2017, during his first stint with RCB, Harshal hadn’t done much, playing 36 matches and picking up 34 wickets. He was, in fact, even sent home mid-season in 2017, a story which Harshal narrated in a free-flowing chat with actor, television and cricket presenter Gaurav Kapur on his famous YouTube Show ‘Breakfast with Champions‘.
“I played 5 games in 2016 and then didn’t play anything after that. 2017 again same situation. I was even sent home once. This used to happen a lot earlier because if you’re keeping a player, there’s his hotel room, daily allowances, you’ve to take him to practice, book his flight tickets. I vividly remember what happened. Avinash Vaidya called me in the room and he said ‘Dan (Vettori) wants to talk to you. And we were staying at Ritz-Carlton. So he called me to the breakfast area and told me ‘We don’t see you playing for at least 4-5 more games so we’re sending you home. But we’ll call you back. It was the epitome of rejection, that you aren’t even in the team,” Harshal said.
When all seemed lost for Harshal, the pacer made one last-ditch effort. With RCB eliminated from the race to the Playoffs, Harshal returned for the team’s final match of the league stage and grabbed 3/43, which helped RCB to a 10-run win over Delhi Capitals.
“Then I think after 4-5 games, RCB was knocked out, we were not going to qualify. So I messaged Vettori saying ‘Give me a game’. That was the first time I actually sold myself to anyone. They called me for the last game and we were playing Delhi at Kotla. The first over I bowled went for some 14-15 runs and then the nerves settled. I said ‘Already been hit for 15 runs, how much worse can it get?’. Then I ended up picking three wickets and won the game for the team. I was Player of the Match in that game. And then next year was the 2018 auction,” recalled Harshal.