Striking it rich

Sayed Iqbal Abdulla
For scores of cricketers, the indian premier league is the ticket to the good life, the Hayabusas and the Audis, the plush apartments and financial security for their families. The story of six players and their journey from struggle to millions

Ravindra Jadeja

23 Chennai Super Kings

His father Aniruddhsinh was a watchman for a private security agency and sister Naina still works as a nurse in a local hospital in Jamnagar, Gujarat. But Ravindra Jadeja, Indian Premier League's new million-dollar baby, has ensured his family's passage out of lower-middle class deprivation.

At the recent IPL 5 auctions, the all-rounder was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings for $2 million (Rs 9.72 crore), making it the highest player franchise bid this year. It's a deal that has sealed his extraordinary run of financial success, which began a few years ago, and is a legend in cricketing circles.

Two years ago, Jadeja drove his Audi4 from Jamnagar to Rajkot where India was playing England. It raised a few eyebrows, but the Saurashtra player was not one to play down his journey to becoming Richie Rich. He bought a horse two months ago, owns a Hayabusa and his teammates say they won't be surprised if he now goes shopping for a yacht. "We can't keep the horse here, so he has bought a farmhouse in the outskirts of Jamnagar," says Naina. "And since the farmhouse still needs some work, we have kept the horse in our village."

Those close to Jadeja remember the more difficult times. He lost his mother Lata in 2005 in an accident; the trauma affected him so much that he wanted to quit cricket. His coach Mahendra Singh Chauhan made sure Jadeja stayed focussed. After India won the Under-19 World Cup in 2008, came the first shower of riches for Jadeja, who was the vice-captain of the team: Rs 15 lakh from the BCCI, a Rs 25,000 monthly salary from Reliance for the next three years, and a Rs 20 lakh contract for two years for IPL-1. "With money, life has certainly improved. It makes you and your family secure," Jadeja says. He went on to play for the Rajasthan Royals in IPL-1 and was bought by the Kochi Tuskers in the third edition of the league for nearly a million dollars, though he never got to play that tournament. Since then, his net worth has climbed steadily.

His sister says since Jadeja made it to the Indian team, they have been getting a different kind of respect at home and at work. Many a time Jadeja has insisted she leave the job but Naina has the same answer: she will get bored at home. Despite the new wealth, the Jadeja family leads a simple life. Naina still uses public transport to reach work while Jadeja's car is only used when he is at home.

Umesh yadav

24 Delhi Daredevils

Umesh Yadav's father Tilak is not sure his son needed to buy a Maruti Swift, the second car in the house. Austerity is second nature to the 57-year-old, having been a coal mine worker all his life. But old habits have had to go with the windfall of his youngest son's success Umesh made it to the Indian one-day side two years ago and was bought for a handsome eight-figure-price in the IPL-4 auction by the Delhi Daredevils. "Theek hai, bacche ka paisa hai," Tilak says.

The Yadavs live in Khaparkhade, a village 30 km from Nagpur, located near a warren of coal mines. A few years ago, if someone had told Tilak that he would have led a life of luxury, he certainly would have laughed it off. Tilak's wanted Umesh to become a policeman but destiny nudged him on the road to becoming India's new pace spearhead. "My father wanted me to be a policemen and I was so close to getting the job. I too wanted to get a job and enjoy a basic life. I never thought I'd play for India one day, or see a life of luxury," Yadav says of his journey from a tennis-ball cricketer who was spotted by an under-22 coach in the village.

Umesh recently bought a racing bike and the one-storeyed house in the village will gain a floor soon. Before going to Australia, he bought land to build a new house near Jamtha, close to Nagpur's VCA Stadium. "I feel secure now, there is nothing better in the world than seeing your family secure," Umesh says. "There have been days in my life when I didn't have money in my pocket. I'm thankful to god who changed my life."

Tilak took voluntary retirement after Umesh made it to the national side and insisted he'd shoulder all responsibilities. Australia has been a big success for Umesh, and the proud father is planning to travel Down Under for the ODI tri-series but is worried about the long flight. He has never taken one before.

Sayed Iqbal Abdulla

22 kolkata knight riders

In the early days of his struggle in Mumbai, left-arm spinner Sayed Iqbal Abdulla remembers missing many morning locals from Kurla to Azad Maidan. He had still to hone the Mumbaikar skill of miraculously finding a toehold in trains spilling with people. Even if he managed to squeeze in, lugging a kitbag in one hand, the rest of his journey would be spent anxiously awaiting the destination, and wondering where he was headed in life. "There were a thousand people at the station! Sometimes I didn't know if I'd be able to get out of the train and reach the ground for practice," Abdullah says, as he fiddles with his iPad at the new one-bedroom flat he has bought in Kalina, a city suburb. "Train journeys always make you strong but sometimes they were a big pain, especially when my matches finished late

in the evening."

It has been two years now since Abdulla last boarded a train; his new car parked outside is just one small example of how things have changed for him in the last two years. His journey has been a long one, from being a madrasa student and the son of a grocer in Azamgarh to a left-arm orthodox spinner for Kolkata Knight Riders. At last year's auction, he reportedly was bought for one crore rupees. Abdulla came to Mumbai eight years ago. His success with the Mumbai Ranji team saw him get a place in the India A side two years ago. Last season, Abdulla played a big role for Kolkata Knight Riders, becoming their highest wicket-taker and got the Best Emerging Player award.

The 22-year-old has now moved to the new apartment in Kalina, a locality that is far from the warren of buildings in Kurla, where finding his home took a fair amount of patience. His one-bedroom flat has all the modern amenities and gone are the days when he had to wash his clothes after returning from tiring practice sessions. His lifestyle has changed too. He says he now has the confidence to carry off branded clothes and a personal style. Hookahs, a range of which are stocked at his home, are a new obsession he can indulge.

"I never thought I'd be playing with Sachin Tendulkar sir one day, I never thought that an actor like Shah Rukh (Khan) would know me by name. Earning money is not my priority. My main motive is playing good cricket and representing the country one day," he says.

He is acutely aware of fame's fleeting passage: "Chadhte suraj ko sab salaam karte hai," he said recently when he was dropped from the Mumbai Ranji team. Those close to Abdulla say the only thing which has drastically changed about him is that he now keeps his phone on silent mode.

Back in Azamgarh, Abdulla's small house is a landmark. His family is often swamped with requests for donations and money. His parents make sure they visit Mumbai frequently. Abdulla says life has changed much, and for the better.

Manpreet Singh Gony

28, Deccan Chargers

From a monthly stipend of Rs 3,000 as a Ranji player to an annual IPL contract worth Rs 1.35 crore, a house in Mohali, and a 5-Series BMW, Manpreet Singh Gony has come a long way. "I also have gold chains, diamond studs, and expensive watches," he gushes, as he trots out the list of perks he has earned over the last four years, since he made it to the IPL.

It wasn't a smooth ride for Gony, the youngest of three children of a middle-class trader, before the IPL. He was trying to make it to the Ranji team for some years, but managed to make a first-class debut only in 2007, after 13 players of the Punjab team moved to the Indian Cricket League. He was also shunted out of his home by his parents who weren't happy with his marriage. But six months into Ranji, IPL happened, and he was selected for Chennai Super Kings. The team's skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was quite impressed with his medium-pace bowling in the first edition of the tournament, and he was chosen to be part of the national squad in the 2008 Asia Cup.

That was a one-off, but Gony, now a part of Deccan Chargers, hopes to stage a comeback after IPL-5, which begins next month. "It seems Ishant Sharma is doubtful for IPL 5. In his absence, I will be bowling the new ball for Deccan Chargers. I want to use this chance to impress at a big platform, and come into the national reckoning again," says Gony, who picked up 22 wickets this Ranji season.

Whether or not he makes it to Team India, Gony is happy that the IPL has given him "everything". "I have become a celebrity, and built a house of my own. I told my wife the day we got married, that one day, I will build a house of my own. I have fulfilled my dream," says Gony, as he poses next to his BMW, parked outside a swanky new house designed by his architect wife. His four-year-old son plays with BMW toy cars. "My lifestyle has changed completely," says Gony, who likes wearing branded clothes, shades, and is invited as a chief guest at local school and college functions.

Saurabh Tiwary

22 Royal Challengers Bangalore

It's not just the mane that he models on MS Dhoni. Saurabh Tiwary's big moment came in IPL-3 when, as a batsman for Mumbai Indians, his explosive batting blew away the bowlers, just like his idol. Though he had consistently performed for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy two years ago, it was the T20 game which brought him in the spotlight. "It's hard to explain the happiness of a boy who hails from a small city and makes a name all over India. IPL gave players like us a chance to show our talent," Tiwary says.

Tiwary's IPL performances helped him get an India cap and a year later, in an IPL-4 auction, Royal Challengers Bangalore bought him for Rs 7.36 crore. Back home in Jamshedpur, the news was discussed for a week, says the left-handed batsman. "People started to recognise me, earlier there would be remarks on my hair. But I became a celebrity overnight, got invited to store openings and functions," he explains.

Tiwary has bought a Honda City and is now constructing a house in Jamshedpur which he says will be ready by 2013. "We hail from a village near Bhagalpur, Bihar. I always wanted to have a good home for my parents and that too in the city. I want them to have a good life ahead," he says.

Manoj Tiwary

27, Kolkata Knight Riders

When Manoj Tiwary failed in his Class XI exams nearly a decade ago, his father Shyam Shankar had to appoint a private tutor for him. "My salary at that time was not even Rs 4,000 per month. So it was very difficult. But we wanted him (Manoj) to have the basic education," Shyam Shankar says.

Tiwary's father still works as a fitter for the Indian Railways. Before they moved in to the sprawling Rs 1 crore duplex apartment nearby, the family lived in a dingy three-room flat at Telkolghat Road in Howrah. "It's because of his cricket and IPL that we have found prosperity. We moved into this house about three years ago. It's a very expensive flat. When Manoj decided to buy it, I asked him to think twice. But he assured me money wouldn't be a problem," said mother Bina.

Tiwary burst onto the scene in 2006-07, scoring 796 runs in seven Ranji Trophy matches at an average of 99.50. It was too good a performance to be ignored by the national selectors and Tiwary was selected to play for the country when India toured Bangladesh after the 2007 World Cup. A freak shoulder injury ahead of his international debut cut short his tour and Tiwary had to wait for a few more months before he eventually made his ODI debut in early 2008.

But the early promise and a truckload of runs in domestic cricket did not bring in the big bucks. "He would take a bus to reach Eden Gardens even after he started playing in the Ranji Trophy. He would travel from Howrah to his coach Manabendra Ghosh's academy in south Kolkata every day. It was a long, difficult journey on trains and buses. At that time he couldn't afford to travel by a cab," Bina says.

Delhi Daredevils bought the Bengal cricketer for $ 6,75,000 in the first season of the IPL and after playing for four years in the cash-rich tournament, Tiwary's life was transformed. The interior of his new flat tells the story of a man who has come a long way. Three cars parked in his garage Hyundai i10, Toyota Fortuner, Honda CRV give ample evidence of his new-found prosperity.

It's difficult for a 27-year-old to keep his feet on the ground after becoming so rich in virtually no time. "I am not at all worried. He is very level-headed and spends his money judiciously. He donated his Man of the Match purse to the AMRI fire victims after he scored his maiden ODI hundred against the West Indies," Bina says. The cricketer also invested his money in Bengali films when his elder brother got into film production.

With his family taken care of, Tiwary is focussed on the game. "Cricket has given me a lot but it's about performing consistently. My aim is to cement my place in the Indian side. It's definitely nice to own a good house and a few cars. But my job is to play cricket without thinking about money," he says.

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