Rajat Bhatia is a talented all-rounder who has performed admirably in the domestic circuit over the years, but has not got the selectors’ attention yet.Sudatta Mukherjee looks at the career of Bhatia, who’s proven all-round worth has sadly gone unnoticed by the national selectors.
One of the major reasons India won the 1983 World Cup was because the team had a sprinkling of bit-and-piece all-rounders: Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Kirti Azad, Ravi Shastri and more.
With 2015 World Cup in mind, India needs a few genuine all-rounders. There is one such unsung all-rounder with over 10 years experience that the selectors could look at — belatedly. It is inexplicable why Rajat Bhatia has not found favour with the national selectors till now — a man who played a big hand in Delhi’s Ranji Trophy win in 2007-08. Bhatia has scored 4,597 runs from 80 matches at an impressive average of 48.90 as of September 27, 2013.
Bhatia started his career with Tamil Nadu. He played his maiden First-Class match and List A match for Tamil Nadu cricket team. However, he returned to his home state Delhi in 2003 and has been playing for them since then.
In 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season, he scored 525 runs from nine matches at an average of 47.72. In the final match, Delhi were up against Uttar Pradesh. Delhi won the toss and elected to bowl. In the first innings, Bhatia took one wicket — that of the dangerous Ravikant Shukla. Despite taking wickets at regular intervals, Tanmay Srivastava and Shukla shephedered Uttar Pradesh to a big total.
Apart from opener Aakash Chopra, the Delhi top-order failed. Gautam Gambhir was dismissed for a duck, Shikhar Dhawan was out for 14. Bhatia came in at No 6 and took control of the situation to score an unbeaten 139, smashing 18 fours and four sixes. Despite the effort from Chopra and Bhatia, Delhi were bowled out for 290 in the first innings.
In the second innings, Bhatia came back to open the bowling for Delhi. He removed Rohit Srivastava and was also involved in the dismissal of Praveen Gupta. Disciplined bowling by the Delhi bowlers helped them dismiss Uttar Pradesh for 177, leaving them with a target of 229, which they attained losing just one wicket.
Delhi has contributed strongly to the national team: Aakash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Amit Bhandari, while the likes of Sumit Narwal and Mithun Manhas have played for India A or India B teams. Sadly, Bhatia has never been selected for anything higher than India Under-19 — not even for the ‘A’ team.
Since making his First-Class debut, Bhatia’s batting average has gone below 40 only in two seasons.
As a bowler, the 2007-08 season was his most productive: 34 wickets at a miserly average of 12.47.
In List A matches in the 2012-13 season, Bhatia scored 200 runs from eight matches at an average of 66.66 and a highest of 106 not out.
When Bhatia got a chance to play for Kolkata Knight Riders, one expected his consistent efforts, helping the team with economical bowling spells and some handy performances with bat, will catch selectors’ eyes. However, that was not to be.
The chances of Bhatia, now 33, breaking in late like a Michael Hussey looks unlikely as the thinking of Indian selectors is dissimilar to those in Australia. And that’s tragic — as has been the case with players like Rajinder Goel, Padmakar Shivalkar, Pandurang Salgaonkar, Shantanu Sugwekar, KP Bhaskar and Amol Muzumdar. But like the warriors named above, Bhatia soldiers on.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)