Imagine being all of 16 years old and becoming a millionaire overnight. On December 18, that’s exactly what happened to Prayas Ray Barman, a little-known leg-spinner, who was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for a whopping Rs. 1.5 Cr, a 650% mark-up from his base price of Rs. 20 lakhs.
For Prayas, the bidding war to acquire his services was a complete shock, as he sat back at home in Kolkata to watch the proceedings unfold. Was he expecting such a huge price? The short answer: No!
"I never expected that I would be even picked up, leave alone going for that amount," said an excited Prayas to Cricketnext, "I was watching the auctions, waiting for my turn but never expected anything. But, when it did it was such a great feeling. I was surprised, for sure."
Prayas first came into limelight when he picked up 11 wickets for Bengal in the Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this season, in nine games. He returned impressive figures of 4/20 on debut against Jammu & Kashmir and carried on producing eye-catching performances all through the tournament. With an economy rate of just 4.45 in the nine matches, he was called up to the Bengal Ranji Trophy squad at just 15, though he is yet to make his first-class debut.
Standing tall at 6'1, Prayas has a classical leg-spinner's action and relies mainly on his stock delivery to deceive batsmen, though he insists he has all the variations in his armoury. He is more in the mould of former captain and India's highest wicket-taker in Tests and ODIs, Anil Kumble.
"I prefer bowling my stock ball, that is your leg-spin, most of the times. I do have variations, but I don't count on those variations, I like to concentrate more on my leg-spin," says Prayas.
"I always try to be a bowler who is not predictable. If that thing is there, then I won't be easy to pick. So, I would not want the batsman to know whether the ball is turning or not because with the kind of height I have, when I bowl the batsman does not know quite know what is going to happen."
However, it has not been an easy road for this 16-year-old lad. Prayas' formative years as a cricketer started at an academy in Delhi but his professional career only started to take shape when he moved to Durgapur, in Bengal, where he joined Durgapur Cricket Centre under the watchful eyes of his coach Shibnath Ray.
He later shifted base to Kolkata after he caught the attention of selectors in a local tournament and was selected for Bengal U-14 and U-16 sides and now stays with his grandparents.
"I played a tournament here in Kolkata and it went well and post that I was selected in the U-14 teams. That is where my journey started in Bengal cricket," quipped Prayas.
"The U-14 trials were held in Kolkata. When I became a regular member of the U-16 and U-19 teams, I had to be in Kolkata to attend all the fitness camps, which made it tough going back to Durgapur, so I had to shift base to Kolkata.
"To get the opportunity to play senior cricket was huge and in some ways, I consider myself lucky that I got a chance so soon."
The 16-year-old considers the legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne as his idol and one of the biggest reasons why he took up the art of leg-spin and is also an ardent Virat Kohli fan, calling the Indian captain and his RCB captain, his role model.
"When I started watching cricket, my idol was Shane Warne. He is one of the best leg-spinners in the world, and it was such joy to watch him bowl. He was my inspiration at the start," says Prayas with a smile.
"And then Virat Kohli, of course, I have always seen him as a role model. The way he conducts himself on the cricket field, his attitude, the passion it is top class. And now I am going to be in the same team as him, it is going to be such a big learning curve for me."
A price tag that huge can come with a lot of baggage of its own, but Prayas insisted that this was just the start of the career and anything he gets from now on can only help him grow as a cricketer and help him achieve his key goal - to play for India.
"No pressure at all. I am just thinking about playing well and expressing myself as I have done till now,” he insists. “This is the first time I have gotten into an IPL team, I am just looking forward to sharing the dressing room, watch the seniors practice. I am hoping to learn as much as I can, that is the most important thing I feel.
"I want to play for the country, that is the dream, that is why I strive and that is what I want to achieve."