Pravin Tambe: A new innings, deep in the autumnal wilderness

Author : Anand Datla
Pravin Tambe

Pravin Tambe

Dreams come true, only they might arrive rather  late at times. At 42, he might seem the quintessential toiler who might fit the role of mentor in an obscure club somewhere. But a few days from now, Pravin Vijay Tambe could finally live his dream of earning his first Mumbai cap. The story of this man is an inspiring tale of perseverance in an era of instant gratification.

We will know on Friday, if Tambe is indeed given the honour of walking out with the team at the Wankhede stadium for a Group A match against Jharkhand. Meanwhile, seasoned scribes and awestruck fans are celebrating the selection of this veteran of twenty odd years with equal zest.

The divine dance of destiny is a complicated circus that eludes us mortals. At a time when Mumbai cricket circles are busy discussing the merits of blooding such talents as Prithvi Pankaj Shaw, all of 14, into the highest levels of domestic cricket, it is indeed ironic that Tambe had to wait till he turned 42 to earn his first real call up.

Of course, Tambe did knock the doors earlier. Way back in 2000, the 5’5” right armed bowler was among the trials for Mumbai, even playing representative cricket against a Kenyan team. But he was quickly among the bustling crowd – working his skills on the mostly thankless club cricket scene.

Back in those days, PT as they call him was a right arm medium fast bowler. It was only at the invitation of his captain at Orient Shipping, Ajay Kadam that Tambe adapted to bowling leg spin during the early seasons of the new millennium.

As fate would decree, Orient Shipping disbanded their cricket team in 2004. Already 33, Tambe found an ally in Abey Kuruvilla, who was happy to take the man aboard his DY Patil Sports Academy team.

As he worked away tirelessly in the Times Shield and Kanga League games, even Pravin would have been hard pressed to pick up the lines on the script that was about to unfold deep in the autumn of his career.

Tambe was picked for the Mumbai team last year, but he could not get an opportunity to take the field in the Vijay Hazare tournament. Unfortunately for the stocky cricketer, he probably did not have the benefit of acknowledgement to support his case. That was fixed once and for all, when he found his way into the instantly glorifying lanes of the Indian Premier League.

Spotted by the IPL hunters from the Rajasthan Royals, during his annual stint in Liverpool, years of unstinting efforts finally began to yield some fruit for the persevering Tambe. At 41, PT’s efforts impressed Rahul Dravid and the men that mattered, helping him get selected for IPL2013.

Though significant success eluded PT in May, the Champions League offered him a second chance. Many remember the three over spell against the Highveld Lions that transformed the game for the Royals. Pravin ended up with the man of the match award, after bagging 4-15 to put the straps on the Lions.

The Golden Wicket followed, in recognition of his twelve wickets in the CLT20. But his efforts dissolved into the background, drowned in the cacophony of Sachin Tendulkar’s and Rahul Dravid’s farewell fireworks.

Fortunately though, the glaring lights that surround the IPL tamasha helped Tambe leave an impression. The appreciation that was hard to come at home had come from afar. Ironical as that might be, it helped PT gain wider acceptance among the familiar yet unforgiving circles of Mumbai cricket.

A cricketer who was earning his livelihood on the famously crowded maidans of Mumbai might finally have an opportunity to bring his skills to bear on a first class game. If he does indeed don the Mumbai colours, Tambe’s thoughts will race all the way back into his adolescent years.

It was then, watching his father Vijay play for Johnson & Johnson that Pravin nurtured his dreams of playing top level cricket. India colours might still elude the ageing warrior, but the Mumbai cap will prove to be a just reward for the hard working middle class man.

Tambe’s tale is one in which the protagonist pursued his passion without too much attention to a specific goal. The means excited the man and that is possibly the reason why his hunger remains undiminished despite the advancing years.

Some boys turn heroes very young and straddle generations with their exploits. Without taking too much away from them, there is a certain timeless romance about a 42 year old bourgeoisie finally being given his due for decades of sweat and toil.

It is no wonder then that the hard earned prize of a man for whom cricket has been a way of life is being celebrated far and wide.

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