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IPL Auction 2024: Jharkhand wicketkeeper Kumar Kushagra's meteoric rise gets stamp of approval by DC

IPL Auction 2024: Delhi Capitals bought Kumar Kushagra for INR 7.2 crore. Who is Kumar Kushagra and here is all you need to know about him. The story of another wicketkeeper batter from Jharkhand.

IPL Auction 2024: Delhi Capitals bought Kumar Kushagra for INR 7.2 crore | Walking Wicket (Photo: ©criccrazyjohns/Twitter)
Delhi Capitals bought Kumar Kushagra for INR 7.2 cr (Photo: ©criccrazyjohns/Twitter)

The biggest T20 cricket extravaganza in the world, the Indian Premier League, over the last 16 editions has consistently produced incredible home-grown talents. Raw and unknown talents have been unearthed on the big IPL stage as it continues to be the platform where talent meets opportunities. 

Scouts from IPL franchises have been traversing all across the country closely following the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy matches to identify the next generation of domestic stars that could make it count on the big stage. 

One of the players the scouts had hooked their eyes upon who recently earned a multi-million dollar IPL contract is a young and promising 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batter Kumar Kushagra from Jharkhand who has been making waves in the domestic circuit with his dominant batting performances across formats and tournaments.

Kushagra bags whopping INR 7.2 crores at the IPL mini-auction 2024

Kumar Kushagra started with a base price of INR 20 lakh and garnered immediate interest from CSK and GT, with DC entering the fray. The bidding escalated rapidly taking his final price to an astounding 36 times the player’s base price concluded with the Delhi Capitals successfully acquiring the young keeper for a substantial INR 7.2 crore.

At DC Camp, Kushagra will be groomed in the safe hands of the mentors Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly. Ganguly first saw Kushagra in August, when he organised a conditioning camp for local Indian players at the Eden Gardens. There, he witnessed the capabilities of Kushagra. Impressed by the uncapped wicket-keeper batter brimming with confidence, unafraid to put the pressure back on the bowlers by hitting huge sixes down the ground with finishing abilities lower down the order at, his ability to tank powerful sixes, play adeptly in the field and exhibit quick behind the stump dismissal skills reminded him of MS Dhoni. 

Ganguly was quick to make a promise after the trials at Eden Gardens, Ganguly told Kushagra that he would play for the Delhi Capitals and the franchise would bid for him till INR 10 crore. At the trials, Ganguly was impressed with his six-hitting ability and ability to play the field. His keeping skills also impressed Ganguly and even told him that there is a bit of MS Dhoni in him when he whips the bails. 

Mr Shashikant, the father of Kumar Kushagra revealed the episode in a recent interview with The Indian Express. He has only one piece of advice for his son and it has been a constant over the years. Kushagra has it on a piece of paper, pasted on the door of his room.

“Seekhna bandh, toh jeetna bandh (When learning stops, living stops).”

As for the Capitals, they struggled to find suitable replacements mid-season in the 2023 edition for the injured Rishabh Pant. They eventually picked up Bengal’s Abishek Porel, who was excellent behind the stumps in the matches he played but couldn’t quite give them batting muscle. This time around, DC decided to earmark a budget to acquire another keeper in case Pant isn’t able to don his wicketkeeping gloves as he continues to recover from a horrific car crash last year December.

Initially, he started his career as an opener in his younger days. Kushagra has transitioned well into playing the middle-order role for his state team, where he is required to finish the innings well on most occasions. He was a part of India’s U-19 World Cup squad in 2020 but he was mainly kept in reserves as his other teammate Dhruv Jurel was preferred over him. 

Kushagra’s domestic exploits

He first displayed his calibre in a Ranji Trophy game against Tamil Nadu in the 2021-22 season, when he made a fighting half-century to rescue Jharkhand in a tottering chase on a rank turner. At 49 for 4, their target of 212 seemed unattainable at one point, Kushagra dug in to make a fighting knock of 50 off 121 balls to lay the foundation for a two-wicket win. 

Kushagra was the youngest to score 250 or more in a first-class innings with a double hundred against Nagaland and followed it up with 89 for which he was adjudged the Player of the Match in the Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinal 2021/22. He was the sixth-highest run-scorer in the recent Deodhar Trophy, tallying 227 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 109.13. In the Vijay Hazare Trophy, his brisk 37-ball 67 guided his team to chase 355 runs against Maharashtra and Jharkhand won that match by 6 wickets.

The Jharkhand connection: resource mine for wicket-keeping talents

Jharkhand has produced a pedigree of high-quality wicketkeeper batters in Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ishan Kishan who achieved great success in international cricket as well as IPL. Newly elected wicketkeeper batters Kumar Kushagra and Robin Minz hailing from Jharkhand who were picked up in a multi-million dollar deal by their respective franchises in the 2024 IPL auction will aim to replicate the success stories of their state predecessors.

Keeping aside the alliance of national and international cricketing superstars which has popularised the brand of IPL, it’s the captivating stories of these young talented players that have made IPL the most endeared cricket league of the world. Every year the unfamiliar names have continued to take the league by storm with their incredible performances and become household names in the process. 

Another wicketkeeper batter Jitesh Sharma who is a part of the Punjab Kings franchise and known for his hard-hitting finishing prowess in the lower middle order, recently made his debut in T20Is against Australia on the back of a promising 2023 IPL season with PBKS. 

If Kushagra gets the opportunity in IPL 2024 to showcase his talent on a big stage and if he follows it up with a good outing, he might not be too far from knocking on the doors of the India team selectors. The IPL, over the years, has brought to the fore young, talented cricketers and opened the gates to national selection turning them into exciting national prospects.

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