Leg-spinner Prince Choudhary, the lone Delhiite to be picked in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 auction, had once decided to give up bowling due to his unusual action.
“It was in his early days that he got very upset and told me, ‘I will only bat and won’t bowl’. He would feel embarrassed whenever he’d go for matches or trials and people would comment on his action,” says Kesar Choudhary, his paternal uncle, who is also his coach.
Generally, every bowler faces the batsman at the point of delivery, which is also the technically correct way. But Prince would look towards the umpire with his head turned down while delivering the ball.
“I tried to change his action when he was thinking of giving up. But we realised that if we tamper with his natural action, his bowling will suffer. Therefore, we allowed him to bowl the way he did,” adds Kesar, who has been training Prince since the age of eight at the Quetta DAV School in Nizamuddin East.
Initially, Prince lacked control but gradually gained it as he grew older.
His unusual action also came in handy.
“I think my unusual action has held me in good stead. It confuses the batsmen,” says Prince.
He was selected for Delhi under-14 and immediately made an impression by picking five wickets in the North Zone under-14 tournament.
Prince, who was bought by Punjab Kings at his base price of Rs 20 lakh at the IPL auction even as the other more experienced Delhiites failed to be picked, recalls that tournament with fondness for he scalped the talented Shubman Gill as one of his three victims in the match against Punjab.
“I had him caught at mid-wicket,” says Prince, who began playing cricket in the lanes of Khizrabad where he still stays.
After representing Delhi under-14, he represented the national capital in under-16 cricket but his best came for the Delhi under-19s.
He played 14 of the 16 matches (eight multi-day and six one-day) for Delhi under-19 in the season, picking 32 wickets. The performance included four five-wicket hauls, all of which were in multi-day games.
He made it to the Delhi under-23 and under-25 teams, but got very limited opportunities in the latter.
This year, he was picked in Delhi’s expanded squad of 26 players for the Ranji Trophy, soon after striking the IPL deal with Punjab Kings.
The 24-year-old recalls December 19, the day of the auction.
“I was hoping to get picked in the auction, but there is always some tension. You are always on the edge till your name appears on TV,” he recalls.
“I was at the Delhi Ranji Trophy pre-season camp at the Jamia Millia Islamia grounds on that day and honestly, my mind wasn’t on the training. I was looking at my mobile phone every now and then just to see the status of the auction.
“I was nervous even though my name had to come up only in the evening. There was no way I was going to focus on practice. I made an excuse and left the camp to go home and follow the auction on TV,” Prince adds.
The moment his name was announced, complete silence descended on the home.
“My parents had tears of happiness. I got so many phone calls congratulating me, that I can’t recall any other time when I received so many calls,” adds Prince, who flew to Vadodara the next day to play in a tournament for Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Though included in the Delhi Ranji Trophy squad, Prince didn’t get a spot in the playing XI for the first match against Puducherry and, therefore, flew to Punjab Kings’ camp in Mumbai where franchise skipper and former India international opener Shikhar Dhawan is also training.
“When I am not in Delhi playing XI, I am with Punjab Kings preparing for IPL.”
Having dismissed Dhawan a few times during the net sessions in the past may have helped Prince create a favourable impression of his skills on the Punjab Kings captain.
“I am really grateful that the franchise has reposed faith in me. I will try to give my best,” he adds.
Being an unconventional spinner, he is also not a great turner of the ball and says his bowling is more on the lines of Anil Kumble who was faster through the air.
In recent times, leg-spinners with extra pace have succeeded in the IPL.
Ravi Bishnoi of Rajasthan (and now with Gujarat) burst into limelight in IPL 2020 and continued to impress over the next three seasons with Punjab franchise and then with Lucknow Super Giants.
Last year, leg-spinner Suyash Sharma caught everyone’s attention. The north-east Delhi player was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) even though he had not played any cricket for the Delhi senior team and represented Delhi at the under-25 level. But he made an immediate impact in the IPL, picking 10 wickets in 11 matches. On the basis of that performance, he was picked in Delhi’s one-day and T20 squads for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy in the 2023-24 season.