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By R Vishal
Since the inception of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rajasthan Royals (RR) have gained a reputation of plucking out gems from nowhere and providing them with a platform to express their potential. While the initial years emphasized a youth-centric policy, there was a certain sense of bewilderment when the inaugural IPL winners went for a little known 41-year old leg-spinner called Pravin Tambe.
Hailing from the talent-rich stables of Mumbai, the extreme levels of competition had resigned the stocky wrist spinner to playing club cricket throughout his career. Tambe was sporadically used in IPL 2013 and failed to cut the muster when he was given a chance. The Champions League Twenty20 (T20) changed Tambe’s fortunes forever, where he ended up as the leading wicket-taker and there was no looking back. The old warhorse even put the exceptional Sunil Narine to shade with his consistent displays and was instrumental in Rajasthan reaching the finals of the tournament.
Rajasthan pulled off another coup despite another newcomer less than half his age, Sanju Samson walking away with all the glowing praises for his matured displays with the bat.
42 now and still bustling with the energy and commitment of a youngster, Tambe has already established himself as one of the first names on the Rajasthan team sheet in IPL 2014. The newly appointed captain Shane Watson has also been mighty impressed with Tambe’s displays and used Tambe in a dual role of containing the flow of runs and providing breakthroughs at crucial junctures.
In the five matches that were played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-leg of the tournament, Tambe strangled the Hyderabad batsmen, while he went wicket-less. With Glenn Maxwell hitting sixes at will, Tambe read the Australian’s favoured scoring areas rather quickly and ended up being the pick of the bowlers in a game that Rajasthan went on to lose after posting a huge score.
A man-of-the-match performance against the powerfully built Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up sealed the deal about his abilities as a match winner. Tambe’s four for 20 proved naysayers wrong and grew stronger from there. Some of the illustrious Australian cricketers of the past decade reserved their best performances well into their thirties. Michael Hussey, Matthew Hayden post 2001 or Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin in recent times showed a situational know-how; picking the perfect window to catch their opponents off-guard.
Tambe showed a similar calm and cool head on his shoulders in Rajasthan’s epic battle against Kolkata Knight Riders, which his team won in the super over. After being hit for a four and a six by Manish Pandey and Kolkata looking poised to take the game away from Rajasthan, Tambe remained unfazed and foxed Pandey and caught him leg before. That dismissal went on to change the course of the game.
When the legendary Sachin Tendulkar — Mumbai’s youngest debutant hung up his boots in 2013, Tambe was making his baby steps in the domestic circuit. Tambe’s zest and enthusiasm for the game remains undiminished and will remain any captain’s dream.
(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)
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