NEW DELHI: His eyes transfixed on the TV screen, left-arm seamer Thangarasu Natarajan was finding it surreal when the bids against his name zoomed up at a breakneck pace during the IPL auction. The little-known 25-year-old's life changed in a matter of few minutes as Rs 10 lakh base price saw a quantum 30-time jump reaching Rs 3 crore with Virender Sehwag vigorously raising the pedal for Kings XI Punjab.
Perhaps he remembered the days of hardships when his mother ran a street side stall and father worked as a porter at the railway station. And the then 20-year-old, one of the five children, was plying his trade at tennis ball games in his native Salem. He eventually moved to Chennai where he played for the popular Jolly Rovers, a club which has fielded big names like R Ashwin and Murali Vijay.
His big breakthrough came last year when he enjoyed a successful stint for Dindigul Dragons in the inaugural TNPL, attracting the attention of the IPL scouts. "It seems unreal. I never thought I would play in the Tamil Nadu Premier League, let alone the IPL. Very thankful that it has happened," Natarajan's elation was palpable as he spoke to PTI today. Natarajan recalls how TNPL gave him the much-needed exposure.
"There was a lot of pressure when I was picked to play in TNPL. But I am thankful to people like Ashwin, Vijay and L Balaji (TN bowling coach) who instilled the belief in me that I was good enough at the Ranji Trophy level. It was my dream to Ranji Trophy which has been fulfilled and now I look forward to meeting people in the IPL and learning from them," he said.
Consistent performances for two years in Chennai club circles earned him a call-up to the Ranji Trophy 2015-2016. For his variation and the ability to land yorkers at will, he is now famously called 'Mustafizur Rahman' of Tamil Nadu. He will have Vijay for the company in the Kings XI Punjab dressing room but is a tad sad about Mitchell Johnson not being with the franchise anymore.
"Johnson is my role model and it will be great if I can meet him during the IPL," he said of the Australian, who has been picked by Mumbai Indians for the upcoming season. Besides rising through a humble background, a big on the field challenge Natarajan had to deal with was when he was reported for a suspected action, which had to be modified under the guidance of former Tamil Nadu spinner Sunil Subramaniam.