Prem Bhatia, India's famous 12th man, passes away

In an Irani Cup match, he was named the 12th man for the Rest of India team but was allowed to bat in both the innings on the insistence of Lala Amarnath, who was also a National selector.

Prem Bhatia seen during the North Zone League Ranji Trophy Cricket Championship in 1964.   -  The Hindu Archives

The twelfth man who made history by batting in both the innings is no more.

Former Delhi batsman Prem Bhatia, who was the most-talked about cricketer in that match, passed away here on Tuesday due to prolonged illness. He was 78.

In the inaugural Irani Cup match (March 18-20, 1960) at the Railway Stadium, Bhatia turned out for Rest of India against Bombay and made scores of 22 (batting at No. 9) and 50 (batting at No. 3).

Interestingly, he was named the 12th man for the Rest of India team but was allowed to bat on the insistence of Lala Amarnath, who was also a National selector.

Amarnath reportedly told the opposition that he was “keen” to watch this (20-year-old) Delhi batsman. Amarnath, who bowled in Bombay’s first innings and did not bat, had included Bhatia in the Indian Starlet team which toured Pakistan the same year.

Bhatia, who served Delhi cricket as a player, selector and administrator, once told this reporter, “I was delighted with the opportunity Lalaji gave me. It was a great learning experience.”

UNIQUE APPEARANCE

With Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma failing to report for North Zone in the Deodhar Trophy match against K. Srikkanth-led South Zone at Vijayawada on January 25, 1985 due to travel issues, (45-year-old) Prem Bhatia, manager of the team, was forced to include himself in the playing XI.

 

According to former Delhi and Services batsman Bharat Awasthi, who was Bhatia’s partner from schooldays, he was "a daring cricketer and an extremely gifted batsman. His square-drive was a treat to watch. In my opinion Prem was an under-achiever.”

Bhatia held another unique distinction in Indian cricket when he had to make an emergency appearance for North India in the Deodhar Trophy match against K. Srikkanth-led South Zone at Vijayawada on January 25, 1985.

North opener Srikant Kate recalled, “With Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma failing to report to the venue due to travel issues, (45-year-old) Bhatia Sir, manager of the team, was forced to include himself in the playing XI. Srikkanth had sportingly offered to field in place of Bhatia but we found a local cricketer do the job.”

North had won that match.

Bhatia, who made his first-class debut in 1958-59 against Eastern Punjab, played 56 matches and aggregated 2548 runs with six centuries.

He is survived by wife and two sons.