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By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It is said that Twenty20 cricket is a young man’s game, but time and again, we have seen old warhorses dazzling the stage. Be it Shane Warne’s remarkable captaincy that helped Rajasthan Royals win the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 or a Brad Hogg making a comeback to international cricket at the age of 40, T20 cricket has given the veterans a second shot at limelight. Thus, age has not been a factor and performances are of paramount importance, so is fitness. Considering these factors, Rajat Bhatia has made his way to India’s 30-man provisional squad for the ICC World T20 2014.
Bhatia is your quintessential T20 player — someone who bats well lower down the order and his nagging medium-pace can cause problems for the batsmen. With the bat, he can chip in with a few runs if the opportunity comes his way, however, he has been more useful as a bowler for Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. He bowls in tight channels and is fairly accurate with his dibly-dobly pace. With the batsmen looking to smash it around, hitting Bhatia for runs is not easy as he doesn’t have pace and the batsmen have to use their strength to send it miles. Most of the wickets Bhatia has got are because of his change of pace and well disguised variations.
For Delhi and later Kolkata, Bhatia has been a fixture in the line-up. His record isn’t outstanding as such and, one would say that they do not exactly measure the kind of contribution he has made to the sides. In 68 IPL matches, he has taken 51 wickets at an average of 27.29 with one four-wicket haul — a best of four for 15. In those 68 matches, he has had only 33 hits with the bat and has managed 225 runs at 10.23. He has remained unbeaten in 11 matches.
In T20 cricket, there is room for those utility players who may contribute in those short bursts and that seems to have helped Bhatia’s case. The other interesting thing is that he had a good season with the bat for Delhi as he amassed 492 runs in seven matches at an average of 54.66 with two tons. That form when coupled with his proven exploits with the ball in T20 cricket strengthened his chances. Though one may be a bit surprised as his name has featured ahead of the likes of Irfan and Yusuf Pathan — men who have been crucial to India’s limited-overs plans in the past, but his performances leave out all the doubt.
But as we know, a call-up for the 34-year-old Bhatia is unlikely. In the past, he has done well in First-Class cricket and couldn’t quite break through into the Indian team as there were more superior batsmen and his bowling wasn’t very strong for the longer format. T20 cricket is a different ball game and it has brought him in the national mix after years of struggle. Yet, Bhatia himself knows that he may not make it, but it nevertheless is a recognition for one of the most respected warhorses in domestic cricket.
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