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Rajat Patidar, Eden, and a knock for the ages

Last updated on 26 May 2022 | 12:55 AM
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Rajat Patidar, Eden, and a knock for the ages

The IPL 2022 Playoffs have peaked, and we have Rajat Patidar to thank for it

"Don't give up on players. Perhaps that's the message (for the franchises). Don't give up on some of these players, because they are seriously good." 

There have been a plethora of takes on Rajat Patidar and his story in the aftermath of the 28-year-old’s fairy-tale knock in the Eliminator at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday. But somehow, these words above from Nick Knight seem to hit the hardest.

Far too often, players are brutally judged and written off on the back of a handful of failures. Specifically by us, the viewers. 

‘Oh, you’ve failed in four consecutive matches? I’m afraid you’re not good enough. Clearly, you’re not cut for the highest level. Thanks for coming.’

In this age of numbers and incessant analysis, these claims can be backed by completely relevant data too. 

It is quite hypocritical to be mentioning this as a Sports Writer, for we’re the first ones dissecting the numbers and calling for players’ heads, but the undeniable truth is that anything short of perfection is heavily scrutinized. Of course, public criticism is an occupational hazard of being an elite athlete but it is brutal — this needs to be acknowledged. 

Rajat Patidar, then, is a player who was completely written off long before he was signed as a replacement for Luvnith Sisodia by RCB, a few weeks into IPL 2022. Why? Because of course, he did not impress in the four games he was given in IPL 2021. That was enough to deem him not good enough.

In fact, he fared pretty well in one of those four matches. Against the Capitals in Ahmedabad, Patidar scored a crucial 22-ball 31 that played a key part in the side’s 1-run victory. But that knock ended up being overshadowed by a match-losing 31(30) against Punjab in the following game. 

Perhaps people’s perception of Patidar might have changed had he got a chance to redeem himself post the horror-show against the Kings, but he never played a game in the season again. The permanent axing meant that the last memory of Rajat Patidar in an average Joe’s mind was a scratchy 31 in which he seemingly looked out of his own depth. Could you really blame the casual viewer for not rating him?

What Patidar did across four games in IPL 2021 evidently failed to impress RCB and every other franchise too. The right-hander did not receive a single bid at the auction table, and as a result went unsold. There’s a video from 2021 where Mike Hesson says RCB had been scouting Patidar since 2019, but clearly, the franchise felt three months ago that he was not good enough to be one among 25 players in their squad.

What exactly made the Reds change their minds last month, we do not know.  But bless the soul that recommended Patidar be signed as Sisodia’s replacement. For that decision is what has made us witness one of the greatest knocks in IPL’s 15-year history. 

Indeed, no hyperbole; no exaggeration. As expert Dirk Nannes puts it, “this innings will be talked about for a number of years.”

Even from a purely statistical viewpoint, Patidar’s 112* at the Eden is one of the best playoff knocks in IPL history. Since IPL’s inception, only four batters have scored more in a playoff game than Patidar did on Wednesday. Only two have managed to do so at a higher strike rate, and no playoff century in IPL’s 15-year history has seen a larger proportion of runs being scored in boundaries. 

But seeing Patidar’s ton from a statistical prism would be a disservice to the knock. How does one not gush over the sheer audacity of it?

Here you have a rookie who has played a grand total of 10 IPL matches in his career take down the best bowling attack in the competition, all by himself, in his team’s biggest match of the season. And he does it with equal amounts of authority and ferocity. Just how?

There have been some great knocks this season, but Patidar’s 112* on Wednesday was more than just a ‘great knock’; it was the equivalent of a 90-minute action film that has you on the edge of your seat for the entirety of the duration. Non-stop pyrotechnics. 

T̶h̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶n̶i̶n̶g̶s̶  the film began with an imposing, Jason Roy-esque thump off Chameera. The bowler, in all honesty, did not do too much wrong, but Patidar read the length early, got into position quickly and crunched the ball off his back foot. It was some way to get off the mark. 

Little did the packed Eden crowd, and millions watching at home, know that the imperious back-foot punch was going to be bettered by 18 other masterly strokes from Patidar’s blade  over the course of the next hour and a half. 

There was a brutal takedown of Krunal Pandya in the final over of the powerplay that saw Patidar massacre the left-arm spinner, taking 20 runs. There was a disdainful pull off the bowling of Avesh Khan, two balls post Kohli’s dismissal, that almost seemed to send a message to the bowler. There was another haughty drive off Chameera, in the 12th over of the innings, that made you stand up and applaud. 

But such was the outrageousness of Patidar’s knock that none of these above-mentioned moments proved to be his biggest highlight of the night.

That came in the 16th over of RCB’s innings, when he slaughtered Ravi Bishnoi like no batter had ever done before. Bishnoi was Rahul’s trump card at that point, having bowled his first three overs for just 18, but Patidar ended up mauling the young leg-spinner, taking 26 off 5 balls. 

The 28-year-old, no doubt, had lady luck on his side, as Hooda put down a pretty straightforward chance on the third ball of the over, but his onslaught in the remaining deliveries was jaw-dropping. 

The right-hander KO’d Bishnoi through a 6 (long-off), 4 (covers) and 6 (long-on) combo that sent the Eden Gardens into joyous pandemonium. Patidar having his helmet off for the entirety of the over added to the theater. 

It felt at that point that Patidar’s innings couldn’t get bossier and swaggier, but it did. The MP batter got to three figures by depositing Mohsin Khan into the mid-wicket stand, but barely celebrated the moment. The helmet stayed on; there was a smile, a little acknowledgement and he was back to business. 

Indeed, an uncapped batter who’d been signed mid-season as a replacement did not celebrate after smashing a ton in the playoffs. Surreal; almost absurd if you think about it. 

RCB skipper Faf du Plessis, post match, was full of praise for Patidar’s attitude. 

“The way he celebrated also tells you he has a good head on his shoulders,” du Plessis said, adding that it was ‘one of the better hundreds I’ve seen in the IPL.’

Du Plessis was not the only one who was awestruck by Patidar’s stroke-making. Virat Kohli had this to say about the 28-year-old’s knock: “I’ve seen many impact innings and many innings under pressure over so many years, I’ve not seen many better than what Rajat played today.”

That’s right. A stamp of approval from the greatest RCB batter of all time. 

Scoring 112* off 54 balls in a knockout match when you’ve been inserted into bat is in itself preposterous. It is, however, worth highlighting the situation in which Patidar did what he did. He walked into bat in the very first over of the match, thanks to du Plessis perishing for a golden duck. He then saw his partner, Kohli, crawl at a run-a-ball on an excellent batting wicket for no less than 8 overs. 

Amidst this, Patidar launched one of the great counter-attacks in the competition’s history. 

The 28-year-old showed glimpses of his potential in his knocks against Gujarat and Sunrisers in the group stages, but this was a whole different level altogether. What unfolded at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday bordered greatness. 

Only time will tell if this knock from Patidar, years down the line, will be looked back on as the innings that made him, or if it turns out to be a mere flash in the pan. For all we know, this could turn out to be his Manvinder Bisla moment.

At this very instant, though, it does not matter. For even if it was only for a couple of hours, Rajat Patidar made all our lives better by playing a knock that is bound to go down in the annals of the competition’s history. 

So yes, franchises, please do take Nick Knight’s advice. Don't give up on some of these players, because they are seriously good.

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