The misunderstood life of a cricketer: In conversation with KC Cariappa
A black cap with the Superman logo embossed on it, flexing biceps that have tattoos right up his collar, and tinted blue shades that glimmer in the sun, he looked quite the part to be a film celebrity on an outdoor shoot, more than a cricketer ahead of a T20 tournament.
"People say, if you play the IPL, you are a superstar. You are a womaniser. All these are normal talks."
KC Cariappa, the blue-eyed boy from Coorg, is known outside of Karnataka as the mystery spinner who bagged a bumper deal with the Kolkata Knight Rider in 2015.
For his teammates, he is the ever-so-jovial 'Carri'.
At 19, he joined the Bijapur Bulls. Now he's 24 and is regarded as a 'senior' in the team. At a brunch event with the Bulls ahead of the seventh season of the KPL, Cariappa spoke to Sportskeeda about the misunderstood life of a cricketer.
A glass of sparkling champagne in his hand, he introduced me to all the players of the Bulls in his own inimitable style, describing their female preferences in humorous detail.
Cricket and glamour go hand-in-hand, especially in the T20 arena. The success is intoxicating, but when the graph drops, it falls like a chopper hit by a bullet.
Cariappa was acquired for a whopping Rs. 2.4 crore by the Kings XI Punjab in the 2015 IPL auctions. In 2014, he had been bought by the Bulls in the KPL for Rs. 25,000.
"The money thing was a miracle. I knew I would get into KKR. Before itself, I had joined the camp and they had told me I could get selected in the IPL, but I was expecting to be bought at my base price. It was a big figure."
The jump was massive. So was the change in lifestyle.
"They are all professionals (in the IPL). They know what they do. Whatever it is, away from the game they do - they enjoy life. When they play cricket, they give their 100%".
"When it comes to their personal life, they enjoy a lot. Whenever they come to the ground, they play seriously. You can't think about cricket all the time. They should also take a break. There should be a limit."
"When they come back to cricket, they show their passion and do their best. Every single time."
"Cricketers never rest. Nowadays, they either love to play snooker or golf in clubs, even if it's just a one-day break."
"They don't enjoy just keeping quiet. If they party at night, sleep till the morning and don't get up on time, they make sure they don't do it again. They won't repeat the same thing".
The euphoria of the IPL did not last long, and Cariappa went unsold this time. "In IPL, whether you lose or win, there is going to be a party. It's like a team get-together, like a bonding session. If you enjoy the parties together, then you can play the game together as well."
"I am not disappointed. I was disappointed only for one day. I was 100% sure I wouldn't get selected in the IPL because I hadn't done well in the domestic circuit and KPL. In the KPL, I was a star for three years. When I did not do well, I was not selected for the IPL. I knew I had to do well in the KPL and domestic cricket every single time".
"Simply put, I did not perform and as a result, I was not there in the IPL".
As a youngster finding his feet, Cariappa started off by watching videos of Ajantha Mendis and Sunil Narine. He names Narine as one of his cricketing idols, whom he played along with during his time at KKR.
"I left my studies after 10th. My dad said, 'whatever you want, I'll give you 3 years, if you can't get it, we'll put you back into studies"'.
Bulls' owner, Kiran Kattimani, who is always on the lookout for new talent, poached him young.
"I came here, I performed. Our video analyst showed it to all the IPL franchises. If someone is doing something, the video will go everywhere in the world."
"As a mystery spinner, I can bowl a variety of deliveries - off and leg break, without using my wrist. There's no one like me in Karnataka."
"When Mendis started, no one knew him. He was an enigma. But in the IPL, they catch you and analyse everything via video."
"Spinners like Narine and I need to keep improving, keep getting new variations every year."
He's seen the IPL life, but there's much more for Cariappa to do at 24. Yet to make his first-class debut, he's basking in the glory of the name he's made for himself at a young age.
"People think we are glamorous. It is not like that. They get a reputation, they enjoy the attention and they wish to show it. If fans come and ask KC Cariappa for a selfie, it feels good. No one used to come and talk to me before. Now, when people come, we like to mingle as well."
"We wish to promote ourselves too. There's no harm in that. People think very wrongly of cricketers. They do whatever they do on the ground, and you should see just that. We are also normal humans."
"When Virat Kohli, the best batsman in the world, is targetted by, say, a South African, people will say, oh, what Kohli is doing is right. Yet, if he says something to an Indian in the IPL, people point fingers at him."
"He is Kohli not because of his runs, but because of his aggression, his attitude."
Attitude flows in the veins of Cariappa as well: it emanates even when he casually poses for the team photographer, and you see it in his eyes when he talks. At 24, he is the superstar of his franchise - but T20 is a fickle game and the list of casualties to the razzle-dazzle is endless.
For his own good, let's hope Cariappa doesn't waver and pitches this one on the right spot.