Thirty-four year-old Rajat Bhatia is officially described as a medium-fast bowler. His four-over spell on Wednesday against Chennai Super Kings was more underwhelming than what his epither suggests but far more effective.
In the 24 balls that Bhatia bowled, he conceded just 13 runs, no boundaries, bowled 10 dot balls and snapped up two important wickets. All this Bhatia did by bowling less than 10 deliveries over the 100 kmph mark.
The Delhi all-rounder utilized slower balls, off-cutters and used the slowness of the pitch to devastating effect. Bhatia, came on in the ninth over with CSK at 63 for 2, Dwayne Smith having given Chennai a roaring start. Bhatia started off with a full ball, bowled a touch above 100 kmph. Faf du Plessis got that one away for a single.
Next ball, a shade shorter but bowled much slower through the air, had Suresh Raina, misjudge the pace and edged it to short third-man. In his last over, Bhatia again bowled four leg-cutters, the last one jumping on Mithun Manhas who managed to hit it straight to the point-fielder.
Bhatia is one of the last remaining bowlers who seem to rely more on variations rather than plugging away in one particular channel. New Zealand’s Chris Harris was perhaps one of the first bowlers who crafted a successful career out of seemingly innocuous bowling.
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Then there was Steve Waugh, who maybe had some more pace to offer and there was Paul Collingwood with his nifty cutters. Bhatia’s lack of pace is masked by his many variations, the leg-cutter, the back-of-the-hand slower ball and his canny use of lengths, mastered through extended periods of toil on domestic pitches offering negligible help to seamers.
On slow pitches, a variety seen in abundance in the UAE, Bhatia is a real handful. His length, never really too short, constantly puts doubts in the batsman’s mind whether to go forward or back.
His lack of pace forces batters to manufacture their own pace. That was exactly what happened against CSK, with Dhoni trying to force the issue, using his bottom hand but only ended up spooning a catch to deep square leg. That is another of the IPL veteran’s strengths.
His pace oscillates between slow and slower, often allowing batsmen time which only seems to have the batsmen in doubt as they have more than one shot in mind. Bhatia feasts on this doubt.
Chinmay is a staff reporter based in Pune.