India A’s left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt delivered a super spell of seven for 113 against West Indies A in the second unofficial Test at Shimoga. Nishad Pai Vaidya spoke to former India player WV Raman, who is the assistant coach of Bhatt’s Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Kings XI Punjab.
Bhargav Bhatt’s spell of seven 113 for India A against West Indies A presented some hope to the bowlers in a game that was turning into a run-fest. The 23-year-old left-arm orthodox bowler is mainly known for his appearances for the Kings XI Punjab, but his record in domestic cricket is proof of his talent. Amongst those seven West Indian wickets, there were Test batsmen such as Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards and Assad Fudadin. Selection into the India A squad was a huge boost to his fledging career, but this seven-for has strengthened his credentials.
Bhatt made his First-Class debut during the 2009-10 season for Baroda. However, it was during the next season that he came into the limelight. In a campaign that saw Baroda reach the final of the Ranji Trophy, Bhatt was one of the stars to emerge. He also played for the West Zone that season. In all, he played 10 matches and took 52 wickets at an average of 23.86 with four fifers and one 10-wicket match haul. One of those five-wicket hauls came during the final as Baroda restricted Rajasthan to 394 in the first innings, but could not prevent them from winning the Ranji Trophy. That consistency helped him win an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with the Kings XI Punjab in 2011.
For a young spinner entering a tournament like the IPL, the experience can be quite unnerving. In his maiden season, he had the confidence of his captain, Adam Gilchrist, and he justified that by taking a four-wicket haul against Mumbai Indians. CricketCountry spoke to Punjab’s assistant coach WV Raman and asked him about Bhatt’s bowling. Raman said, “He has a big heart and gives his best effort. He has done well for Baroda in domestic cricket.”
When one looks at Bhatt’s career graph, one would find that he hasn’t had too many big ticket games. He played 10 games during IPL 2011, but since then his appearances have been few and far in between. While domestic performances are of prime importance, games at the IPL or for India A gives them more exposure and helps them grow. Raman said, “It hasn’t been easy for him as he hasn’t had too many games at a higher level. That is why, this performance against West Indies A will help increase his confidence.”
Playing for India A certainly provides a platform and in recent times, the selectors have thrown in a lot of young talent into that arena. The endeavour is clear: They want to build a good bench strength with numerous options. “He [Bhatt is hard-working and has age on his side. He can impress the selectors with his performances. Even when he has bowled in T20 cricket, he has stuck to the basics.”
Raman also pointed out Bhatt’s strengths and a few areas he had to work upon. “He is a consistent bowler. He gives it a little air as well, but his strength is consistency. Only thing is that he has to work on completing his follow-through well. That would help him get more turn and bounce.”
Bhatt’s season-wise First-Class record:
The 2010-11 season was a stand-out campaign for Bhatt. The following year, he played only four games and had moderate success during the 2012-13 season. His selection seems to be on promise and needs to be backed as he can turn into an asset. “It is good to see the youngster get the opportunity and perform well,” Raman concluded.
The competition for berths is intense. Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin have firmly grabbed their spots in the Indian team. In the season so far, as many as five spinners have played for India A — Parvez Rasool, Jalaj Saxena, Sarabjit Ladda, and Rakesh Dhurv are the others. Bhatt has to compete with them and emerge stronger. In his first outing for India A, he seems to have done no wrong.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)