Indian Premier League is often called a platform for youngsters to showcase their skills, rub shoulders with international cricketers and earn fame. It has also proven to be a springboard to international cricket for a slew of young cricketers. Stellar performances in the IPL are duly recognised and rewarded with a place in the international team by the selectors.
However, there have been many struggling players who were lost in the dusty climes of domestic and local cricket, but the IPL plucked them out of the wilderness and gave them their moments in the sun. They may not have become international cricketers but surely caught the fancy of millions of people and earned their spurs even if fleetingly.
The New Indian looks at four such cricketers:
Pravin Tambe: Tambe’s story is the most unique in the history of the IPL. He made his IPL debut at the age of 41 – the oldest debutant ever – in 2013 and till then he had not even featured in any first-class or a top-level game. The closest he had got to playing a top-level game was when he was named among the probables for Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy.
In the early seasons of the IPL (from 2008 to 2012), Tambe worked as a liaison officer for matches played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. His talent was spotted by Rajasthan scouts during a local T20 tournament.
Tambe played his first IPL match against Delhi in 2013 and did decently. However, he grabbed the limelight later that year when he emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the Champions League T20 by chalking up 12 scalps in 5 matches.
Tambe created a sensation in 2014 as he pulled off a hat-trick against Kolkata by dismissing Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate. For a while, he was the Purple Cap holder (awarded to the highest wicket-taker in the season) of the tournament and ended the season by taking 15 wickets.
Later, he also played for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders till 2020. Overall, Tambe featured in 33 IPL matches and took 28 wickets at an average of 30.46 and strike-rate of 23.57.
Indian great Rahul Dravid, who was the coach of Rajasthan in 2014, called Tambe “his inspiration”. In 2022, a biopic based on his life, in which actor Shreyas Talpade essayed his role, opened to glowing reviews.
Paul Valthaty: One of the most enduring moments in the annals of the IPL is Paul Valthaty’s unbeaten 120 off just 63 balls for Punjab Kings against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in 2011 at Mohali. His whirlwind century not only deflated CSK but also catapulted him to fame. The commentators and the media endowed the epithet ‘Volcano Valthaty’ on him.
Valthathy had spent almost a decade in the wilderness after a freak eye injury in the U-19 World Cup match against Bangladesh in 2002 where the likes of Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan were his teammates. The right-hand batsman underwent five laser surgeries as the retina in his right eye was completely damaged.
He bagged a contract with Rajasthan Royals but played only two matches for the franchise in 2009 and wasn’t picked for any game in 2010. In 2011, Abhishek Nayar was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab and he recommended Valthaty. In the 2011 season, Valthaty opened the innings with Australian legend Adam Gilchrist and finally had his moment in the sun as he enjoyed a terrific season.
Overall, in 23 IPL matches, he scored 505 runs at an average of 22.95 and strike-rate of 121. However, injuries continue to blight his growth and after 2013, he wasn’t picked up by any franchise.
Rajat Bhatia: Rajat Bhatia was a warhorse for Delhi’s Ranji Trophy team for many years but never came close to representing India at an international level. While his teammates Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma gained prominence, Bhatia always remained shrouded in obscurity until the IPl happened.
Bhatia was bought by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008. After three years with Delhi, he was picked up by the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 2011 auction where he played under his Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir. A powerful lower-order striker and a fine utility bowler, his all-round exploits were instrumental in Kolkata winning the IPL title in 2012.
In a format where batsmen are always geared up to throw their bat around, Bhatia’s slow pace and deceptive variations outfoxed them on many occasions.
After plying his trade for Kolkata, he was bought by Rajasthan in 2014 for Rs 1.7 crore and played a couple of seasons for them. Overall, he featured in 95 IPL matches and scored 342 runs at an average of 11.40 and strike-rate of 120. Also, he snaffled 71 wickets at an average of 28.45 and an economy rate of 7.40.
Manvinder Bisla: Kolkata had performed abysmally in their first four seasons, 2008-2011, and were desperately looking to put up an inspired show. In 2012, they performed splendidly to reach the final where they were up against Dhoni-led Chennai. In the biggest match of the tournament, an unheralded cricketer discovered his batting mojo and became an overnight star.
The wicket-keeper batsman Manvinder Bisla opened the innings with captain Gautam Gambhir and wreaked havoc on Chennai bowlers. He cracked 89 off just 48 balls as Kolkata chased down 192 to bag their maiden IPL title.
Bisla had started his first-class career in 2002 in his home state Haryana but moved to Himachal Pradesh in 2004. He played first-class cricket for 9 years with middling success but emblazoned his name in the annals of the IPL by unfurling a match-winning innings in the 2012 final.
However, he failed to capitalise on his success and managed only 255 runs at a strike rate of 108.05 in the 2013 season. Kolkata released him after 2014 and he played his last IPL game for Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2015.
Overall, in 39 IPL matches, Bisla scored 798 runs at an average of 21.