No starry airs for Pravin Tambe

The moment a sportsperson enters his 30s, he or she does not only have to worry about their performance on the field. A host of other issues begin taking centrestage, the biggest of them being, the subject of retirement. With age playing catch up, it’s a given that the big decision is around the corner.

Pravin Tambe
Pravin Tambe during a Dr HD Kanga Cricket League match at Shivaji Park on Sunday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

However, just like everything else, there are exceptions to this widely held notion, and Pravin Tambe, 42, is one amongst them. After all, the veteran Mumbaikar’s flight has just taken off.  For someone who has never played a first-class match, Tambe created a sensation with his commendable leg-spin bowling that played a crucial role in Rajasthan Royals making it to the Champions League T20 final where they lost to Mumbai Indians.

Tambe, with 12 wickets from five games without getting hit for a six, ended the CLT20 as the highest wicket-taker. There’s so much fuss about his age that Tambe has only recently begun taking note of it. “What’s with my age?” he asks during a chat with MiD DAY. “I have never thought about my age all this time. The media is highlighting it a lot. I can still field at any position and not get tired. I am madly in love with this game.”

Despite excellent performances in Mumbai’s local leagues, Tambe met with repeated rejection and it was Rahul Dravid, his skipper at RR, who discovered Tambe’s worth. And the spinner’s phoenix-like emergence has gone on to become one of cricket’s most heart-warming stories in
recent years.

For the record, Tambe was once again not considered for defending champions Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy season opener against Haryana from October 27.
“Honestly, I have never played cricket for these (selection) reasons. I have never paid any attention to it. I only wanted to play cricket… bowl as many overs as I can,” says Tambe.

Tambe may sound unreal, as there is always a goal to play higher level of cricket. He too may have harboured the dream of playing first-class cricket for Mumbai and advancing his career.  Tambe, however, provides an explanation for this. “Of course, I had dreams of playing higher level cricket.

But I have never gone into the match thinking that ‘if I get so many wickets, I would get selected for this tournament’. Once you start thinking about these things and play with an intention of getting selected, your performance starts getting affected. I have always entered the field thinking about performing well. And this thinking will never change,” Tambe asserts.

True spirit
Tambe, who is also a coach to aspiring cricketers, shares what he has observed about Mumbai’s youngsters. “They get disheartened very soon when they don’t find a place in the Mumbai U-14, U-17 or U-19 teams. They think of giving up cricket at times. I always tell them that there is cricket beyond these age group tournaments,” says Tambe before making a philosophical point, “If you do anything with your heart, success will follow.

If you are honest and sincere towards this game, it will do justice to you. Opportunity can come anytime.” The conversation then veers towards his newfound stardom. Tambe once again gets philosophical. “You will get whenever you are destined for. There is nothing late for me. I am happy with whatever I am getting now. I want to just enjoy my game. It (success) is a result of all these years of hard work.

This success is because of my unconditional love for cricket,” he feels. Tambe’s love for the game is evident from the fact that he quit a job only to take up another where he would be allowed to play cricket regularly. He is currently employed with the DY Patil Cricket Academy. The turnaround happened when his employers sent Tambe to play in a league competition in England for four months where the Rajasthan Royals talent scout spotted him.

“Playing all these years helped me a lot when I was bowling in the IPL and Champions League to all international players. I may not have played higher level cricket before this, but I played against good teams and players. I wasn’t nervous at all. Everyone in the team (Rajasthan Royals) gave me a lot of confidence,” he says.

Still the same
Unlike modern day youngsters, who buy the latest gizmos, cars or bikes after getting fame and money, Tambe’s life remains the same. “I still travel to work (from Mulund to Nerul) on my second-hand bike. I am still using my second-hand Blackberry phone which I purchased a few years back. So, nothing has changed for me. It’s just that people have started recognising me now. I also have some fan-following,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.

Nevertheless the thing he is most proud of is this: “I have become a hero to my son. He proudly tells everyone in his school about me. My family has played a huge role as well. I could feel their happiness and they were in tears when I won the Golden Wicket award.”

As of now, Tambe is keen on doing something special for his wife on their 14th anniversary on October 25. “She has been very supportive. I have never given her and my kids quality time because of cricket. Immediately after coming back (from the Champions League), I was playing a Times Shield match next day. I want to do something special for them,” he concludes. 

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