Only a couple of days before the match against the Deccan Chargers, Rajat Bhatia wondered what it would be like to win the Man-of-the-Match award and give a TV interview to a worldwide audience. The unassuming Delhi Daredevils allrounder discussed just this with his wife Neha.
And then the daydream came true in the unlikeliest of circumstances. “The IPL gives you the feeling that you are playing for the country. To be bowling to international stars and getting Man of the Match at a world stage was something special,” Bhatia told the Hindustan Times.
“My wife and I were discussing what it would be like if I took three wickets, the team won and I was Man of the Match. We had no idea what that feeling would be like. The two of us were pleased after Wednesday’s effort (four for 15). I was my normal self at the post-match interview,” said the all-rounder.
Bhatia married Neha in November 2008 and she has been a solid support on this tour. “I am enjoying cricket in South Africa as she is here with me. I never thought the IPL would be outside India. It is a different experience playing here. In India, you are used to the conditions.”
Always a canny operator with the ball, Bhatia’s variations — especially his slower one — have caused problems for batsmen. Bhatia said he had been practicing the slower ball with David Saker, the team’s bowling coach. “I don't have the pace to worry batsmen. I rely on moving the ball. In four-day matches I have to do that as you don’t use the slower one as much as you do in 50-overs or T20. I have to be clever enough to read the batsmen and outwit them with my slower one,” the Delhi Ranji player said.
Even the usually positive Bhatia had trouble believing that his team could emerge victorious when the Chargers were cruising along. “That win was unbelievable. We kept our basics right and hoped for the opposition to make mistakes. That was a chance for me to become a hero. I knew they’d try to score off me and I had to be good and do something special,” he said.
Bhatia is 29, but he hasn’t given up hope on playing for India. “The hope is always there. Without hope, you cannot play cricket. I am still an all-rounder. It is better to be known as a match-winner than a normal player. Travelling with players like McGrath, Sehwag and Gambhir you keep learning. I am still learning.”