Around this time last year, Rajat Patidar was gearing up for yet another domestic season. Being a seasoned campaigner in the circuit, Patidar knew that a good season can eventually help him draw attention of the national selectors.
He was perhaps hoping to get an Indian Premier League contract, too. But when the franchises met for the mega-auction in Bengaluru in February this year, none of the ten outfits showed any interest in the 29-year-old batter from Madhya Pradesh.
That obviously was disappointing for the cricketer from Indore, but he never lost hope. Barely a couple of days after the mega-auction, he rang Devendra Bundela - former Madhya Pradesh captain, coach and one of the stalwarts of domestic cricket - for some advice. The two spoke for long, with Bundela counselling his ‘younger brother’ on how to shrug off the disappointment and concentrate on the Ranji Trophy.
But suddenly in April, Patidar was called up by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement for Luvnith Sisodia. While there were initial concerns whether he will make it to the playing eleven, RCB handed Patidar a few games and he made the most of the opportunity, hammering an unbeaten 112 against Lucknow Super Giants at Eden Gardens to eventually pave the way for his team’s 14-run win in the eliminator.
And, on Sunday, as Patidar earned a maiden call-up to the Indian ODI squad for the series against South Africa, Patidar calls that century against Super Giants as the ‘turning point’ in his career.
“It’s a dream for every cricketer to play for the country. That century in the IPL was certainly the turning point this time. I have been performing well in red ball cricket, so it was really good to perform in white ball cricket as well and that innings in the IPL helped me get recognised,” Patidar told Sportstar, a few minutes after being selected for the Indian squad.
In the eight IPL innings last season, Patidar scored 333 for Royal Challengers Bangalore at an average of 55.50.
A month after the IPL, Patidar scored a century in the final of the Ranji Trophy against Mumbai, guiding Madhya Pradesh to its maiden title.
Last month, he featured in the red-ball leg of the India A vs New Zealand A series, where he scored a couple of centuries - with a highest score of 176.
“I didn’t do anything different and just thought of sticking to the basics. But the fact that I had the opportunity to play against overseas bowlers was a good experience. I learnt quite a bit by playing against them. Their style of bowling is different from that of Indian bowlers, so it was a learning experience for me,” Patidar said.
As he gears up to join the Indian team, Patidar does not want to change his game. “I am not going to do anything different and will just be myself. I will keep believing in myself and do my job,” he added.
Having been in the domestic circuit for a while, Patidar has seen the ups and downs in life quite early. At a time when not many showed faith in Patidar’s abilities and doubted his talent, former India international and Madhya Pradesh stalwart Amey Khurasiya played an instrumental role in re-shaping his career. “I have learnt a lot from people like Deven bhai. I am grateful to my coaches and mentors - Amey Khurasiya really helped me during my U-19 days and those learnings helped. Over the last couple of years, I have picked up quite a few things from Chandrakant Pandit (MP coach) sir. So, I am grateful to them. The coaches have helped me immensely,” he said.
“I have the ability to play both red ball and white ball. I have the shots, so it is about making the right decisions and playing the right shot according to the format. Coming from red ball, it needs a bit of adjustment to play white ball cricket and I am just working on that,” he said.
A few years ago, Patidar suffered an injury and it was a challenge to come back to the circuit. “Those phases are very important for every cricketer because you learn a lot from those phases. Those lessons allowed me to focus on my game and work on the areas that required some attention. So, those phases were important for me,” he said.
India will play a three-match ODI series against South Africa starting next Thursday and Patidar hopes to make the most of the opportunity that comes his way.