The last few months have been nothing less than a dream for Rajat Patidar. In danger of finishing his career as another journeyman in domestic cricket, the 29-year-old Madhya Pradesh batter has exploded onto the national scene with a series of eye-catching performances. He came into focus when he scored 112 not out and 58 for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL play-offs in May 2022 and hasn’t looked back since. He also helped Madhya Pradesh win their maiden Ranji Trophy title with 122 and 30* in the final against Mumbai to finish as the second highest run-getter in the tournament with 658 runs in nine innings. He has started the new season well, hammering a 176 on his India A debut last week, against New Zealand A. HT caught up with him during the break after the Ranji Trophy. Excerpts:
How will you describe your dream run?
I have never felt that this is my dream run. I don’t focus on how many runs I am scoring, I look at whether I am getting into a proper position; have the proper balance while playing my shot. I don’t focus on the results (runs), and I don’t judge myself on that basis. I know when my shape is good while playing the shot or defending, runs will surely come. Proper execution of the shot gives me a high, not the scores, that is the time I feel I am batting well.
Going unsold in the IPL auction must have been a frustrating experience…
Yes, you feel a little bit. Like I was not picked in the IPL, then was taken later (as an injury replacement). If I had begun thinking that I want to play and when will I get a chance, then it would have hurt more. But I never gave it much thought. My mindset from the start has been that what is not in my hand, I can’t do much about it. Things will come automatically if I do well.
How was it when you got a chance as an injury replacement?
Literally, I didn’t feel like going when I first got the call because I was thinking what will I go and do, they are not going to play me anyways (being a replacement player). I have to go and sit only. Then I finally decided, “let’s go and see, at least I will be in touch as there is no cricket in Indore at that time being off-season”. During practice at Royal Challengers Bangalore camp, I was told to be mentally prepared that I won’t get a chance to play. I said: ‘It’s fine. I know it.’
When you are not a regular member of the team, you don’t get many opportunities to bat in the nets. I had stopped taking my kit bag for practice, had decided will just do my fitness and come back. Then later, their words changed: “we want to play you, we wanted to play you (earlier)”. In the 8th match of the season, I finally got a chance. Whatever happened, happened for the good. Good that I went there and was practicing.
Your backfoot drives and punches caught the eye during the IPL…
Backfoot punch… the good length area where the bowl bowls the most, you play that shot on that ball. Earlier when I played the backfoot punch it used to go to deep extra cover for a single. I did some self-analysis. I observed how Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli played it a lot and it would go for four past the cover fielder. So I used to think, “I am hitting and getting one run and these two get fours on the same shot”. Then I worked on developing the shot to beat the cover fielder. It is a shot where if you find the gap, it’s two or a four.
In your second game, the half-century (52 off 32 balls) in the 99-run partnership with Virat Kohli vs Gujarat Titans at Brabourne Stadium, how important was that?
It was my first fifty in the IPL. It was important for the team and more so for me. After that innings, I started getting attention in the franchise. It was important to prove myself. During that innings, I realised that not just fifty but I can get a 100. When coach Sanjay Bangar sir congratulated me, I told him that I can get a bigger score.
What does helping Madhya Pradesh win the Ranji Trophy mean to you?
It is the best moment of my life so far, means more than the hundred I got in the IPL. To be the leading run-scorer (of the team) the year you win the Ranji Trophy, gives you a lot of confidence that we all contributed and helped the side win. For me as well as all my teammates and the Association which was trying to win it for a long time.
You are 29 now, do you feel the pressure that time is running out and you should get a chance now with the India team?
I feel that I should play for India, but I have not felt that pressure that I should get a chance now… that this is the right time. I have never thought about the future so maybe because of that I don’t feel that pressure.
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