IPL auction: Meet Robin Minz, Kumar Kushagra, products of Dhoni legacy
Wicketkeeping gloves are more in demand in Ranchi and young cricketers like to have long hair, says the legend’s childhood coach
The MS Dhoni legacy in Jharkhand seems to be only growing with time. If the emergence of Ishan Kishan around seven to eight years back showed the early signs (he was born in Patna but learned the early ropes in Ranchi), two more teenagers, Robin Minz and Kumar Kushagra, piqued the interest of the media when they were picked up with surprisingly high price tags at the IPL auction in Dubai on Tuesday.
Both are wicketkeeper-batters with aggressive batting styles — no prizes for guessing where the inspiration has come from. Minz, a left-handed batter from the tribal belt and already being called 'Ranchi ka Gayle', was picked up by Gujarat Titans for Rs 3.6 crore while Delhi Capitals were locked in a bidding war for Kushagra before winning him for Rs 7.2 crore.
The price tags are surely prohibitive when one accounts for the fact that someone like Rachin Ravindra — who won the emerging player of the year award at the recent 50-over World Cup — went to Chennai Super Kings for a mere Rs 1.8 crore. Both Minz and Kushagra were picked up by the spotters of the respective franchises, with the latter catching the eye of Delhi head of cricket Sourav Ganguly, no less, during a camp in Kolkata which coincided with the World Cup.
"After Dhoni, we have seen Ishan playing for India. This auction, Kushagra and Robin have made it big. All of them are wicketkeepers and dashers with the bat,” said Chanchal Bhattacharya, a Dhoni's childhood coach who took Minz under his wings at Sonnet Cricket Club in Ranchi. “When Mahi made his India debut, there was only one cricket academy in Ranchi. Now there are 15. I am not exaggerating in saying that in Ranchi, wicket-keeping gloves are more in demand, plus young cricketers like to grow their hair long,” Bhattacharya told the media.
Asif Haque, another local coach at Sonnet Club, was effusive in praise of Minz. “We call him Ranchi ka Gayle. He is left-handed, well built and hits big sixes. A new-age cricketer, who loves to take on the bowlers from ball one, believes in batting at a strike rate of 200,” Haque said.
Capitals, meanwhile, had to fend off interest from Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans to rope in Jamshedpur’s Kushagra. The 19-year-old was the sixth highest run-getter in the Deodhar Trophy earlier this year with 227 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 109.13. This included a 50 for East Zone in the final defeat against South Zone
Kushagra also made his presence felt in the recent Vijay Hazare trophy, smacking a 37-ball 67 as he helped his side surmount a 355-run target against Maharashtra. The right-handed batter was part of India’s under-19 World Cup squad in 2020, the edition which saw the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ravi Bishnoi break through the ranks.
Last year, Kushagra caught the eye of Indian cricket enthusiasts after his double hundred against Nagaland in the pre-quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy when he was just 17, making him the youngest batter to score 250 or more in a first class innings.
"(Sourav) Ganguly was impressed with Kumar after the trials and told him Delhi Capitals would bid up to Rs 10 crore for him. His keeping skills also impressed Ganguly and he even told him there’s a bit of MS Dhoni in him,’’ Kumar’s father Sashikant Kushagra, a district commissioner in the GST department in Jamshedpur, said in an interview.
Meanwhile, Minz’s father Francis, formerly of 9 Bihar Regiment and now a security personnel at Ranchi airport, said: “I had met Dhoni at the airport recently. He told me Francis ji, koi nahi lega toh hum le lenge (if no one picks him, we will)."
Both youngsters are perfect examples of the IPL philosophy, inscribed on the glittering winners’ trophy in Sanskrit: ‘where talent meets opportunity'. However, only time will tell if they can keep up the early promise, or if such heavy price tags will act more as a distraction.