"Everyone clapped for me on the flight; that was a very special moment" - Avesh Khan on creating IPL auction history

Avesh Khan (R) became the most expensive uncapped player ever while Ishan Kishan (L) bagged the highest bid at the IPL 2022 auction
Avesh Khan (R) became the most expensive uncapped player ever while Ishan Kishan (L) bagged the highest bid at the IPL 2022 auction

Avesh Khan was on the flight when his name came up at the IPL 2022 mega auction. The Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) snapped Avesh up for a whopping ₹10 crore, making him the most expensive uncapped player ever, but the 25-year-old couldn't watch that moment of history being scripted.

Team India were traveling from Ahmedabad to Kolkata for the T20I leg of the West Indies series. Avesh’s name was slated to appear in the uncapped category, towards the fag end of the opening day of the auction.

Once they took off on Saturday evening and lost all kinds of connectivity, Avesh started getting nervous about what lay in store for him.

Earlier in the day, the whole team had watched the auction process together. And those who already had their fate sealed speculated constantly about which way Avesh was headed, thus making him more anxious.

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Avesh admitted that he was expecting a minimum of ₹7 crore.

"I was on the flight at that time and I had expected I would get at least 7 crore," he said. "But since I was on the flight and couldn’t watch the auction live, I was feeling a bit nervous thinking which team would pick me and for how much. Upon landing when I got to know that Lucknow bought me for 10 crore, I froze for five seconds. But then things became normal, I was like okay."
"Ishan Kishan and Mohammed Siraj were pulling my leg throughout the flight journey – they were just speculating how much I would go for, which all teams would be interested in me, and all that," Avesh added. "Once we landed, the network on my phone was spotty, but then Venkatesh Iyer broke the news to me. Everyone clapped for me on the flight, that was a very special moment. As soon as my network became available, I continuously started receiving calls, WhatsApp messages."

Interestingly, it was Avesh who had broken the news to Venkatesh about his maiden India call-up for the T20I series versus New Zealand last November.

It is a heady feeling when a big group claps for you in an air-tight space, especially if it’s about an achievement as sensational as ₹1000 lakh. But the more emotional moment came when the Indian team disembarked and Avesh Khan found Rishabh Pant’s arms to fall into.

Not only was the wicketkeeper-batter his captain at the Delhi Capitals, but Avesh and Pant have been the best of buddies since age-group cricket.

"I would miss them [Ricky Ponting and Co.] a lot because I had an emotional connect with the Delhi Capitals," Avesh said. "After our flight landed in Kolkata, I met Rishabh outside and he held his arms wide open for giving me a hug. He told me, ‘Sorry, le nahin paye’. Because, they weren’t left with a huge purse and had players to buy as well."
"When I watched the auction later, I saw that they did place a final bid for me at 8.75cr, but Lucknow eventually bid the highest," he added. "So it was a very emotional moment with Rishabh; we have played Under-19 together, we always sit together after matches, hangout together."

Lucknow and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) got into a bidding war from Avesh's base price of ₹20 lakh, before the Mumbai Indians (MI) threw their hat into the ring to take the amount past the ₹4 crore mark. After an MI-LSG tug of war and DC’s solitary bid of ₹8.75 crore, the SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) also joined the fray at ₹9.25 crore.

However, it was eventually Lucknow who ended up signing their most expensive player at their maiden auction.

Avesh Khan went past the record of all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham, who had been purchased by CSK for a staggering ₹9.25 crore at the IPL 2021 mini auction.

₹10 crore is a huge amount; most people would stumble at merely counting the number of zeros in it. But Avesh feels no amount - big or small - can define the quality of a player.

The 25-year-old thanked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for staging the IPL which, he believes, acts as a springboard for many young cricketers aspiring to represent the country.

"According to me, no price tag can define the quality of a player," Avesh said. "Like when I was sold for 70 lakh to DC in 2018, everyone used to tell me that the amount didn’t justify my ability. But I didn't pay much attention to them."
"We all players thank the BCCI for giving us a platform like the IPL, which gives opportunities to so many young players and in turn helps in the growth of Indian cricket," he added. "It is because of the IPL that infrastructure in our country has improved. So as a young Indian player, I have always looked at the IPL as an opportunity to play for India."
"I have never chased money or fame," Avesh continued. "I have always hoped of winning my IPL team matches and then go on to play for India. It was because of how I performed last season, I got the India call-up."

Although Avesh was already with the Indian team as a net bowler, IPL 2021 was a breakthrough year for him. In that season he scalped 24 wickets in 16 matches at an impressive strike rate of 15.25 and an economy rate of 7.37.

Avesh Khan's pillars of strength - mom, dad, and a nutritionist

Avesh Khan (L) with Suraj Thakuria (R) at the former's Indore residence [Credits: Suraj]
Avesh Khan (L) with Suraj Thakuria (R) at the former's Indore residence [Credits: Suraj]

Avesh Khan loves his biryani. In fact, he had one plate of it in Ahmedabad even before his name came up in the auction. But he couldn’t celebrate his IPL success with his favorite meal because he had promised his nutritionist Suraj Thakuria to get back to following a strict diet after that one cheat meal.

"Suraj warned me against overeating and asked me to have roti and chicken tonight." Avesh said. "I had told him yesterday, ‘Yaar, kuch khaya nahin maine’, so he had given me the permission to have biryani for lunch. But we have decided to again get back to a strict diet today onwards."

The DC pacer added that Suraj's prescribed diet played a huge role in the highs of IPL 2021.

"When I was with the Indian team in Chennai, as a net bowler for the England series, I was thinking what more I could do to improve," Avesh said. "I told Venkatesh that I wanted to lose weight, so then he got me in touch with Suraj. The journey started from there."
"He first got to know me inside out and then started giving regular diets and monitoring the progress," the 25-year-old added. "That eventually played a huge role in my success in IPL 2021, because I lost weight and my body was thus responding very well."

Also read - Suraj Thakuria: From best friend to nutritionist, the man who unlocked Venkatesh Iyer's true potential

But it is mom and dad that Avesh holds closest to his heart, and he credits them for all the crests he has ridden. It wasn’t smooth sailing in their household at one point; the local authorities in Indore had taken down his dad’s roadside paan shop, thus making it difficult for them to make ends meet.

Not surprisingly, Avesh’s mom had tears in his eyes when he recently received his maiden call-up to India’s ODI side. It goes without saying that Saturday’s outcome would have left them spell-bound.

In fact, Avesh was talking to his parents late on Sunday night when Sportskeeda contacted him.

"I would firstly like to thank my parents, because only they both stay with me during bad times," he said. "As soon as I was sold in the IPL, I video-called my mom. I couldn't speak to dad because his phone was busy. And when I had gotten my maiden India call-up, last November for the New Zealand T20Is, then also I had immediately called up my dad and spoke to mom after 30 minutes."
"And recently, when I got selected for the ODIs versus the West Indies, mom had tears in his eyes," Avesh added. "I was sitting on the sofa next to dad when the news came in. I first hugged him and then mom also joined, and we stayed like that for about 15-20 seconds – so that was a very emotional moment for me, something I’ll remember all my life. They both started shedding tears of joy and I consoled them, so I would always give them credit for my success."

He further expressed gratitude to all the influential figures in his life – from his childhood coach and his club seniors, to the BCCI officials and his current coaches.

"I would also like to thank Amay Khurasiya sir, who helped me a lot at my academy when I was a budding cricketer," Avesh said. "Then there are my club seniors, namely, Kapil Yadav, Rajesh Khanojiya, Anand Bhajan. Then come Narendra Hirwani sir, Sanjay Jagdale sir, Chandrakant Pandit sir – they have always motivated me and pushed me towards Test cricket."

Avesh Khan picked up 12 wickets in six matches during the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, a tournament where India lost to the West Indies in the final. His tryst with the IPL started the following year when he made his debut for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), on 14 May 2017.

“My primary dream is to play for India” – Avesh Khan

Avesh Khan during a photoshoot session with the Indian team ahead of the West Indies ODIs [Credits: Instagram]
Avesh Khan during a photoshoot session with the Indian team ahead of the West Indies ODIs [Credits: Instagram]

Avesh Khan will have to travel to the ‘Land of Nawabs’ when the IPL kicks off in April this year – assuming it is staged all over the country. He will miss his DC friends, no doubt. But he has already made peace with the necessity of constantly moving on from familiar environs.

"I am in a new team now and I am excited for it," Avesh said. "There’s Andy Flower, KL bhai [Rahul], Gautam Gambhir – whom I have played with previously for Delhi – so there’s some excitement of joining a new franchise."
"There will be moments in life when you’d have no option but to move on, be it some family issue or cricket," he added. "It’s the circle of life that you have to constantly keep moving on to newer things, learn new things and forget old ones."

When asked if he was looking forward to bowling in tandem with express pacer Mark Wood, Avesh stated he was more focused on getting the India cap for the time being.

"There’s Mark Wood, Ankit bhai [Rajpoot], Jason Holder, so we have a good bunch," Avesh said. "I am actually not thinking that far, because my primary dream is to play for India. So many players play the IPL, but only 11 players play for India."

With the three-match T20I series against the Windies scheduled to start this Wednesday, Avesh is primed to get the green light. He is looking forward to embracing the pressure of international cricket, along with picking the brains of the legends of the game.

"I believe I will learn what to do and what not to do, as I play matches," he said. "Playing for India comes with a different pressure, as compared to playing in the IPL. So when I do experience that pressure, I will get to learn things for the journey ahead."
"I would talk to the coaches – Rahul sir, Paras Mhambrey sir, Rohit bhai, Virat bhai – all these guys have played for India and they know how to deal with pressure," he added. "So I would want to learn from them gradually because there always remains a small area of improvement – the more you reduce that area, the more your cricket will improve."

Whether he plays in Kolkata or not, the journey back will indeed be a sweet one. The ₹10 crore bid, which marks a step up in Avesh’s career, will always come rushing back every time he is among the clouds (nine).

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Edited by Sai Krishna