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Prince among Punjab’s Kings is the odd one but think twice before ruling him out in IPL 2024

Prince is still getting used to the rigours of IPL but being part of the PBKS set-up has already taught him that he can be accepted as a cricketer the way he is

It’s a whole new world for Prince Choudhary. IPL generally is for most cricketers, let alone for someone who didn’t have any List A or first-class experience before getting picked up at the auction. The attention, the glamour, the money, the grand stage, and sharing the dressing room with superstars of the game – IPL is the biggest of them all. But for Prince, it is more about finding acceptance. He is still getting used to the rigours of the highest level but being part of the Punjab Kings set-up has already taught him that he can be accepted as a cricketer the way he is.

PBKS player Prince Choudhary(Prince Choudhary?Instagram)

“Yahan bohut alag mahoul hai. (Things are different here). They don’t want to change me, they want to improve me,” Prince told Hindustan Times. The heaviness of Prince’s words overpowered his innocent yet charming smile. He has his reasons for feeling this way. Taunts over his bowling action and rejections for being unconventional were a part of his daily routine.

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“I have met many coaches in Delhi. Some said, my head falls while delivering the ball. Some pointed out the speed of my non-bowling arm. I was also told to bowl slowly. But the good thing is that I didn’t listen to everything everyone said. Maine apni kari (I listened to my heart). It is my natural god-gifted action,” he said.

And when that same thing became one of the biggest factors behind his IPL selection, it took some time for the 24-year-old from Delhi to digest. “Shikhar (Dhawan) bhaiya ne bola ‘jaise dalta hai bachpan se, waise hi dalta rahe, kuch badalne ki zaroorat nahi‘. (Shikhar Dhawan said ‘Keep doing what you have done all these years, no need to change anything’.) ‘Just back yourself’, said (Sanjay) Bangar sir. ‘Your bowling action will make it difficult for the batters to read you’.”

Before captain Dhawan and director Bangar, it was PBKS head coach Trevor Bayliss who first took note of Prince in the trials in Mullanpur, Punjab. Prince remembers the date by heart. “7th November 2023,” he said with a childlike enthusiasm. That was the first time Prince auditioned for PBKS. But before November 7, 2023, he faced rejections at Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Capitals, and Mumbai Indians.

And each time, he went back to the drawing board, fixed a few bugs and returned as a better version. The software upgrades were subtle but significant. Sometimes it was about the pause in the delivery stride – a slight hold would give him better control. Sometimes it was about his grip.

What’s unique about Prince Choudhary’s bowling action and why it was his nemesis in the beginning

Prince has been upgrading himself since the age of 10 even before taking up serious cricket. A wrong-footed medium pacer turned leg spinner, Prince, is unlike any other member of his fraternity. There is a resemblance with a young Virat Kohli and even a tad with Afghanistan superstar Rashid Khan but none of their head turns towards the umpire instead of the batter while delivering the ball like Prince. His non-bowling arm goes up high for a split second but stays tucked close to his body at the time of release. The high momentum of his run-up pushes his right arm to rip the ball forward.

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“I used to bowl like Virat bhaiya in the beginning. His pace and mine were similar,” Price said with a sheepish smile. “My uncle (Kesar Chaudhary) said it would be difficult for me to generate pace with that action. So I slowly switched to leg spin.” It was not an easy switch by any means. He struggled with control so much so that batters would deny facing up to him in the nets… not because he was unplayable but because the ball could land anywhere. Many times it landed above the nets.

But whenever he got it right, it was difficult for the batters. He was fast-tracked into the Delhi U-14 side where he even dismissed Punjab’s prodigy Shubman Gill in a match. Prince’s career, however, suddenly hit a roadblock. As he was slowly moving to the higher levels, the unconventionality in his action became his biggest enemy. The ball fizzing out of his hand now and then also didn’t help. The result? Prince didn’t play any age-group cricket for four years.

Change of fortune and IPL dream

“There were a lot of ups and downs. I used to go to trials and my name used to vanish after getting shortlisted,” he said. There came a point when he even thought about quitting cricket. “My mother is a school teacher. She told me to try for another year and if I don’t succeed, I should focus on my studies. I was almost 18 at that time.”

Prince gave it his all. This was going to be his final shot at making a career in cricket. He decided to stop going to cricket academies where coaches would often reject him. Instead, he worked on his control with his uncle cum coach Kesar Chaudhary. The results followed. He picked up 9 wickets in a DDCA League game and immediately shot into the limelight. What bigger proof did one need about his accuracy than six bowled dismissals and three LBWs in a single match? The reward was a berth in Delhi’s U19 side.

Prince’s upward curve continued as he picked up 32 wickets that season across formats for the Delhi U19 side. His show in the Cooch Behar Trophy red-ball cricket meant he was getting ready for a bigger stage. “Then I was selected for the U23 team and got five wickets against Baroda.”

In between, he started giving trials for IPL teams. Three years later, it was in the PBKS trials that things started to look positive. The confirmation came on December 19 last year. “I didn’t eat the entire day. I just couldn’t. I knew I had a good chance of being picked up but my name was supposed to come towards the end of the auction.”

PBKS picked up the leg-spinner for his base price of ₹20 lakh in an accelerated part of the auction. “Achaa kia jo meri cricket chhodne wali baat tune nahi suni (Good that you didn’t follow my advice of quitting cricket),” was his mother’s first reaction.

Since then, Price’s world has changed. He has attended two camps with the PBKS coaches and support staff members, met captain Dhawan, one of his childhood heroes, and has continued to impress one and all with his uniqueness. There is still no guarantee that he will get to make his debut this year. With experienced Indian spinners Rahul Chahar and Harpreet Brar already in the side, it is unlikely that Prince would start ahead of the game but the Impact Player rule and the length of the IPL have kept him hopeful.

“Rahul bhaiya has been very helpful. My leg-spin doesn’t turn much so try to talk to him about it. He has given me a few tips about my grip. I am learning a lot,” he said.

Prince knows his journey has only started and there is a long way to go but he doesn’t feel insecure about being different anymore.


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