The 23-year-old has been hugely impressive in the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. His 10 wickets in six matches helped Himachal Pradesh reach the quarterfinals, where they lost to the eventual champion Tamil Nadu by five wickets.
Arora’s performance caught the eyes of Indian Premier League (IPL) scouts. He was called up by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Mumbai Indian, and Rajasthan Royals for trials. On Saturday, KKR picked him for Rs 20 lakh in the IPL auction.
“I didn’t move an inch during the entire auction. I was very nervous, but when, ‘Vaibhav Arora sold to KKR,’ was announced, I went berserk. Playing in the IPL is every cricketer’s dream, especially for our generation, as we have grown up with this tournament,” Arora told TOI from Jaipur, where he is with the Himachal Pradesh team for the Vijay Hazare Trophy 50-over tournament.
Net bowler for Punjab Kings
This won’t be Arora’s first IPL stint as he was in Dubai with Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) as a net bowler.
“Those 80 days with the Punjab Kings gave me an enormous amount of confidence. It took my bowling to the next level. I was bowling to KL Rahul’s, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Mayank Agarwal in the nets. It took the fear factor away from me,” said Arora, who hails from Ambala Cantt.
Arora’s inswinging yorkers and deceptive bouncers left an impact on Punjab Kings captain KL Rahul and coach Anil Kumble. He recalled: “After our first net session in Dubai, Rahul bhai asked me where do I play from and said you would play in IPL soon. Anil sir also came to me once and asked a similar question; he said I have got the potential and told me to keep working hard.”
Arora, over the years, has been the proverbial journeyman cricketer. In 2011, at the age of 14, he moved to Chandigarh from his hometown Ambala to pursue a cricketing career. He took admission in DAV Senior Secondary School, Sector 8 C, and immediately enrolled in the cricket academy. Thrice he was selected for Punjab U-19 camp but never got the opportunity.
In 2018, he moved to Himachal Pradesh and turned professional. He immediately left his impact in the U-23 One Day matches, and with 26 wickets in nine matches, he ended up the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. Next year, he was fast-tracked into the Himachal Pradesh Ranji team and registered best figures (9/105) on his debut against Saurashtra.
“I moved to Chandigarh when I was in Class IX. My father (Gopal Arora) feared sending me to Chandigarh. I was young and had never stayed away from home, but he gave in to my perseverance,” Arora recalled.
“I never got an opportunity to play for Punjab U-19. In 2018, my coach (Ravi Verma) helped me to move to Himachal Pradesh. The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) has backed me a lot. I was never treated an outsider,” he said.