Rajat Patidar went unsold in the Indian Premier League mega-auction in February. The Madhya Pradesh batter, however, was roped in by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement for Luvnith Sisodia, at a later stage in the tournament.
The 28-year-old had a modest outing in the six group league fixtures, scoring 163 runs. Patidar, however, played the innings of his life at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday, hammering an unbeaten 112 off 54 deliveries to guide the Royal Challengers Bangalore to 207-4 in the eliminator against Lucknow Super Giants and eventually paving the way for the team’s 14-run win.
Walking out to bat at a time when the team had lost its captain Faf du Plessis, with just four runs on the board, Patidar forged a 66-run stand with Virat Kohli and even after the India international’s exit, Patidar made the most of a reprieve and went on to score his first century in the tournament. He also built a 92-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Karthik to ensure that the team crossed the 200-run mark, which eventually proved adequate.
Ahead of the second qualifier against Rajasthan Royals in Ahmedabad on Friday, Patidar’s form is a boost for RCB’s batting department. “The way he played, I really don’t need to say anything. We have been seeing this calibre in the practice games. Even last year when he was with us, he got a few opportunities but could not do justice to his talent and calibre. We knew he was a special player. When he came in as a replacement player this year, he looked determined,” Harshal Patel, one of the architects of RCB’s win, said.
“He is kind of an introvert and goes about his business quietly. We knew the kind of contribution he can make to the team and we are exceptionally proud of Rajat. Hopefully, he can play a couple of more knocks like this…”
Defending 207, Royal Challengers Bangalore needed a disciplined effort from its bowling unit and Josh Hazlewood and Harshal ensured that Super Giants batters could not hit too many big shots despite KL Rahul and Deepak Hooda being at the crease. Coming back from an injury, Harshal had to be cautious. “Luckily, I did not have to make any changes to my skill because the skin superficially has healed well. So, I could bowl my slower deliveries and whatever I wanted to bowl. We tried everything in practice yesterday and I bowled 30-40 deliveries. I was pretty confident that this will hold up as long as I don’t get another impact. I did not have to make changes, luckily it healed…”
While he admitted that there was no due on the surface, a drizzle before the toss forced the groundsmen to cover the entire arena, which resulted in a bit of dampness in the outfield. And, observing the Lucknow bowlers, Harshal realised that the short and slower deliveries weren’t not coming on to the bat. “For me, that was a clue that I want to bowl short and into the pitch as slow as I can and then mix it up with a yorker or a good hard length ball. I wanted to bowl slower deliveries in these sort of wickets because if you banked on pace, it was easy to score…,” Harshal said.
There was a time when Super Giants needed 35 runs off 18 deliveries and that’s when Harshal struck. “I was nervous because you are defending 35 off 18. When there was a wide and they got six runs, I realised that the wide yorker wasn’t coming through today. So, I thought it’s better to follow the plan that worked for me in the first two overs. The idea was to get KL and Stoinis out, luckily that worked…”
After playing two months of non-stop cricket in Mumbai and Pune, the teams had very little time to adjust to the conditions in Kolkata, and now that RCB travels to Ahmedabad with a lot of hope, Harshal knows that his aim would be to “assess the conditions early and adapt to the situation…