‘Bit of Dhoni’: Ganguly was ready to pay ₹10 cr for uncapped keeper in auction | Cricket

To say Kumar Kushagra impressed Delhi Capitals Director of Cricket, Sourav Ganguly during the trials held a couple of months ago in Kolkata would be an understatement. Anything would be. Sample this: Ganguly kept a budget of 10 crore for the 19-year-old keeper-batter from Jharkhand. That is 50 times his base price of 20 lakh. The former India captain was ready to go all out to get hold of Kushagra in the IPL 2024 auction. Ganguly may not have imagined that he would almost have to stay true to his words to get the youngster his maiden IPL contract with DC.

‘A bit of Dhoni’ in Kumar Kushagra

After a fierce battle with Gujarat Titans, DC bought Kushagra for a whopping 7.2 crore. Initially, another franchise showed interest in the youngster and that was MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings. That is not the only connection between Kushagra and the great man. Kushagra plays for the same team that Dhoni used to in domestic cricket – Jharkhand and is also an attacking keeper-batter.

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“He will do really well if he achieves half of him (Dhoni),” Ganguly told broadcasters Jio Cinema when he was asked about Kushagra and Dhoni belonging to the same state.

‘A bit of Dhoni’ in Kushagra’s keeping

The former BCCI president may have dodged that question quite well but he saw a bit of Dhoni in Kushagra during the trials. Shashikhant, father of Kumar Kushagra, revealed that Ganguly was bowled over by his son’s keeping skills. “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,” he told The Indian Express.

Shashikant recalled the 10 crore promise from Ganguly but he never quite believed it. Not that DC wouldn’t go for his son but that a 19-year-old uncapped seldom goes for that amount – Avesh Khan is the only uncapped Indian to get 10 crore in an IPL auction.

“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 10 crore. I thought he will get picked by the Capitals at base price. For a few minutes, I was so numb. One can only think about miracles, and today was that kind of day. He was confident because Ganguly had promised him, but I thought he must have said this to encourage him,” he added.

So were the impressive trails the only reason behind DC and Ganguly’s interest in Kushagra? Not exactly. The then-17-year-old holds the record for being the youngest cricketer to register a 250-plus score in a first-class match. He had done that in a Ranji Trophy 2021-22 match against Nagaland. His 266-run knock broke Pakistan legend Javed Miandad’s long-standing record. His T20 strike-rate of 117.64, however, doesn’t ooze much confidence but the youngster is definitely the one for the future and can be an option behind the wickets if DC want to play Rishabh Pant only as a batter.

Like most Indian cricketers, Kushagra was bitten by the game at a very early stage. “I had never played cricket at any level. I was just a keen follower. When he was five and started showing interest in cricket, I decided that I would coach him. A colleague suggested a book named Art and Science of Cricket by Bob Woolmer. I must have read that book at least four or five times. That book became my coach and I started training Kushagra,” recalled Shasikant.

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