Pravin Tambe may be a little long in the tooth, but he certainly isn’t short of talent. Born on October 8th, his star sign is Libra, ‘scales and balance’, but his deceptive leg breaks often wrong foot batsmen and throw them totally out of kilter. The Rajasthan Royals have a well-deserved reputation for spotting young talent and giving them a chance, but Pravin was at the other end of the age scale when he was picked from obscurity at 41 for IPL 2013.
Tambe had not even played a top-level game for a first-class side and fans and pundits were bemused by his selection. The leg spinner had toiled for several years as a club cricketer in Mumbai while still holding down a day job. Until the Royals scouts spotted his talent, his closest brush with top-level cricket came when he was named in the Mumbai Ranji probables in 2000. During the early seasons of the IPL, Tambe worked as a liaison officer whenever matches were played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. Little did he know then, that he would one day play on that field in front of thousands of adoring fans.
When Pravin played his first recognised Twenty20 for the Royals against Delhi Daredevils, in 2013, he became the oldest player in IPL history. He had a solid first season, but really grabbed the spotlight for the Royals in the Champions League later that year, when he was the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 12 scalps in five games at an average of 6.50, better than the likes of Sunil Narine and R Ashwin. That stat led to a long-awaited Mumbai Ranji call-up in the next domestic season. In the 2014 IPL season Tambe continued to thrive, taking a brilliant hat-trick against KKR in Ahmedabad which earned him the man of the match award. He also held the purple cap for being the highest wicket taker in the IPL 2014 for some time, an incredible achievement for a player who never gave up on his dreams.