Bhatia relishes bigger role at RR

Veteran Delhi cricketer asked to play a leadership role in young dressing room

Abu Dhabi 19 April 2014
Rajasthan Royals have been one IPL team that has created more stars than they have bought. They have proved that if given the right role, responsibility and freedom, a fringe player can turn into a match-winner.

When RR bought Rajat Bhatia at the 2014 Player Auction, he was told that he is expected to shoulder all the responsibility that a senior player in any team would. He would have to guide the youngsters and create match-winning plays on the field.

Bhatia did it in his first match in the Royals colours. With his modest off-cutter and slower one, Bhatia dismissed SRH’s two most dangerous batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan (38) and David Warner (32) – to break a potentially dangerous partnership. As a result, the Royals were chasing an equally modest 133. Then, when his team faltered against the Sunrisers’ incredibly strong bowling attack, Bhatia whipped Dale Steyn over midwicket to score a crucial boundary in the 19th over.

Having helped his side register their first win in Pepsi IPL 2014, Bhatia spoke to about his new role in the new team. The veteran Delhi all-rounder was forthright in admitting his limitations and told us how he strived to achieve success while playing within them.

Here are excerpts from his interview:

The slower ones continue to do the trick for you, don’t they?

To be honest, I know I am not someone who can bowl at 140 or even 130 kph. So, in order to play to my strength, I ensure that the batsman has to use his power to score boundaries rather than me giving him the pace to hit me.

Does the ploy of bowling the slower ones and cutters work particularly well against attacking batsmen?

Rather than bowling to the batsman, I bowl to the situation. I try to assess what the batsman wants at that time and try not to give it to him. I try to give him the ball he doesn’t want in order to block the shot he wants to play. That’s what I have been doing and I have dismissed some big batsmen. That gives me further confidence to continue with my plan.

Which wicket did you enjoy more – that of your Delhi mate or of the Aussie powerhouse?

To be very honest, Shikhar’s wicket was very important for us. I got him once during his first few games with the Sunrisers and I was really pleased to get him today.

How is your role different with RR than it was at KKR?

I have to shoulder more responsibility here. I want to make sure that besides my bowling, whenever I get a chance to bat, I utilise it and contribute substantially. That’s what I tried to do today and I got that boundary at a crucial juncture. These are the small things which if you keep doing, the match will be in your favour.

You and Stuart Binny are two key players for RR as all-rounders. Do you indulge in many discussions about your respective games and your roles in the team?

Stuart is a power-hitter and a very good all-rounder. He has just started to play for the country as well and there are many things I can learn from him. If there is anything he can learn from me, I would be happy to oblige.

Your years of experience playing in the Indian domestic circuit gives you immense knowledge about the Indian boys and conditions. How much of a role do you play in the leadership group?

Rahul (Dravid) bhai told me from the beginning that I have to play the role of the senior and experienced player in this team. I have played all the seasons of the IPL and know some stuff about the Indian players. He told me it was my responsibility to guide the young Indian players in the team and I am trying to do my best in passing on to them whatever I know. As for me, I keep learning from Rahul bhai – he is a great man – and I am sure at the end of this IPL, I will be a different player.

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