The Rajat Patidar Story: When Talent Met Opportunity With a Dash of Good Fortune
IPL 2022: Rajat Patidar emerged as RCB's highest-scorer in both the play-off games.
If you didn't already know the Indian Premier League's motto – 'where talent meets opportunity' – the commentators have done a fine job of drilling it into everyone's consciousness over the last few days.
The motto, however, is not without good reason. While the cash-rich Indian league has brought fat pay cheques for some of the biggest names in world cricket, it has also turned out to be a real career opportunity for the budding Indian cricketers, who now have something to aim at, other than the almost impossible India berth.
Twenty-eight-year-old Madhya Pradesh right-hand batsman Rajat Manohar Patidar is one such player who made optimum utilisation of his talent at the IPL stage when it really mattered.
Rising Through The Ranks
Patidar began his cricketing journey as a fast bowler but had to switch to off-spin in order to find a spot in junior cricket. After going through an ACL reconstruction in his right knee in 2014, Patidar took to batting more seriously under the tutelage of former Indian batsman Amay Khurariya and began to rise through the ranks.
He has become a key member of the Madhya Pradesh side over the last couple of years. His List A career hasn't peaked yet but Patidar has been doing a terrific job for MP in First Class cricket where he averages over 40, with seven centuries from 39 matches.
His T20 numbers are exceptional, with the batter averaging 35.11 and striking at 142.31 from 39 games, including nine centuries and the best of 112.
It wasn't really a surprise when Patidar was picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2021, though the batsman was expecting to be roped in by Kolkata Knight Riders alongside his teammate Venkatesh Iyer, both of whom were in red-hot form in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
After impressing RCB batting consultant Sanjay Bangar in the four-day conditioning camp and scoring heavily in the practice games, Patidar got four opportunities in IPL 2021 but wasn't able to make the most of it.
Not bid for at the 2022 mega IPL auction, Patidar was preparing for his wedding following a good domestic season. The wedding was set to take place on 9 May and even a hotel had been booked in Indore for the low-key affair. But, the booking had to be postponed as Patidar found himself back at RCB as a replacement for the injured Karnataka wicketkeeper batsman Luvnith Sisodia.
Coming on the back of 142 in the Ranji Trophy against Kerala, Patidar, unlike 2021, was completely ready for the opportunity this time. It was credit to the RCB management as well who gave the exciting batter the licence to go after the bowling as he repaid the faith of the team with crucial knocks of 52 against Gujarat Titans and 48 against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Come the high profile Eliminator clash against Lucknow Super Giants, the RCB fans were waiting for the likes of Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell to go big. Instead, it turned out to be Rajat Patidar's night as he owned the Lucknow Super Giants bowling with a sensational knock of 112 not out off just 54 deliveries, laden with 12 fours and 7 sixes.
The way he batted against the quality LSG pace trio of Mohsin Khan, Dushmantha Chameera and Avesh Khan showed that he belonged at this level. He pulverized spinners Krunal Pandya and Ravi Bishnoi, clubbing 58 runs off only 22 balls against them at a strike rate of 263.63, the 4th highest for any batter in an IPL innings.
Patidar's player-of-the-match-winning performance not only took RCB to Qualifier 2 but also broke a slew of records. The RCB batsman became only the fifth player to notch up a century in the IPL playoffs after Virender Sehwag, Shane Watson, Wriddhiman Saha, and Murali Vijay, the fourth uncapped player with an IPL ton, and the first one to do so in the playoffs.
India Call-Up Still a Few Steps Away
Although his 42-ball 58 wasn't as free flowing as his knock against LSG, Patidar still finished as the highest run-scorer for RCB against Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2.
A couple of his punches through the covers off Prasidh Krishna's short-pitched deliveries approaching 150 kph gave glimpses of Rohit Sharma and showed that Patidar wasn't only comfortable against spin but had no trouble in negotiating proper fast bowling as well. Something which separates the domestic performers from those who graduate to the international level.
A national call-up may be some time away, with a handful of exciting batters already ahead of him in the queue, but another successful IPL edition will make it very difficult for the Indian selectors to neglect the stylish batsman.
It was former captain Virat Kohli who played a major role in fast-tracking Patidar to the RCB XI in 2021. After the 28-year-old produced one of the best IPL knocks of all-time, Kohli once again waxed lyrical about the MP dasher.
“The magnitude of the game was so big that I was feeling the tension in the air because I have been in those situations where you have to cross the line as a team. What he did was very, very special, I don’t think that anyone should take that for granted. You should understand the excellence of the innings and appreciate as a cricketer to watch an innings like that. I told him as well after the game as well that I have seen many impact innings and many innings under pressure over so many years. I have not seen much better than how Rajat played today,” Kohli swooned over Patidar's ton in a post-match chat with iplt20.com.
Patidar's postponed wedding will now take place in July after he features for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy knockouts. The function may not remain that low-key now if Patidar's role model and RCB teammate Virat Kohli decides to show up.
Perhaps, Patidar's family will book a grander venue for the bridegroom-to-be, after his grand IPL heroics.
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