One is 43, rotund, muscular, a little clumsy; the other is 23, agile, so thin he could slip in through your keyhole. One grew up in a famed nursery of cricket, the other in a place without quite the same tradition. But they have much in common.
They practice a fascinating but difficult art, they have been consigned to relative obscurity and they are lighting up IPL-7. In what has been a good tournament so far, I find myself waiting for Pravin Tambe and Yuzvendra Chahal to bowl. And I wonder, if it hadn’t been for the IPL, would they have ever had a stage to perform on?
Tambe’s is the more dramatic story. Till he was spotted at a camp for the Rajasthan Royals at the age of 41, he was among the foot soldiers of our game; among the many who toil so that one, often someone else, can make it big. There wouldn’t have been a footnote for him, even in the history of Mumbai cricket. When the IPL came along, he was at the DY Patil Stadium, checking if the arrangements for the cricketers, other cricketers, were good enough.
He gave himself the opportunity by turning up at the trials and allowed someone to notice that he spun the ball, that he bowled the wrong ‘un, that the ball came out of his hand well. You have to salute his spirit but you have to stand up and applaud the attitude of the Rajasthan Royals that they noticed only the ball coming out of his hand, not the age of the shoulder that delivered it.
They have been a great club and have offered many like Rahane, Samson and Binny among others, the opportunity and the freedom to earn a name and a living. Each of those learnt their cricket elsewhere but the IPL gave them a stage and you must never underestimate the importance of that.
Tambe was a curiosity at first but now everyone knows what he can do. That is a different challenge but at IPL-7 he is standing up to it and succeeding.
It helps that people have no choice but to take him on, and that is what a leg spinner loves. But see what else he offers. Very little. He is slow in the field and at this level, he can’t bat. If he doesn’t bowl very well, he is easy to drop.
Tambe could have looked at everything that he can’t do but I suspect he chooses to look at what he can. I don’t know him but he must be feisty and optimistic.
Chahal has age on his side but so do many others. He comes from Haryana continued…