Dubai: Left-arm spinner Rahul Bhatia, who played a pivotal role in the UAE emerging as Asia Under-19 Western Region champions in Malaysia late last year, is dreaming big. “My dream is to play in a World Cup for UAE under the captaincy of Rohan Mustafa and win matches,” he said.
Never before has a junior cricketer produced such a stunning performance against international teams in his first series for the UAE. Rahul repeatedly wrecked opponents to ensure UAE stunning victories and his 18-wicket tally, which earned him the best bowler’s tag, included a six-wicket spell against Bahrain and a five-wicket spell against Oman.
Speaking to Gulf News about his experience in Malaysia, Rahul said: “I was thrilled to be selected into the under-19 team and I wanted to make full use of the opportunity. I will cherish the first match where I took six wickets against Bahrain, which was also my debut match.”
Rahul’s impressive show has won him an invite to train with the UAE senior national team. “I am delighted at having got a call for the UAE seniors’ camp. I know I have to work harder, which I am doing. It’s a privilege to play with seniors and learn from them. I am thankful to our coach Dougie Brown who has praised me and is also guiding me.”
Rahul is flying out to also play first division league matches in Kolkata, where he will be brushing shoulders with the likes of senior pros like Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda. “I will be turning out for Netaji Subash Chandra Institute. I am sure this is going to be a very good learning experience and my coach Brown has given me the permission to play in it as some are even three-day league matches.”
Rahul has already impressed senior cricketers while playing warm-up games against visiting teams. “I have played against Afghanistan, Namibia, Netherlands and taken two wickets in each match but my best spell was against Papua New Guinea when I took five wickets for 21 runs,” he said.
It is Rahul’s determination and focus to excel that has helped him progress every day. It was his father Neelesh Bhatia, an ardent cricket lover, who guided Rahul into the game. “My father taught me to bowl and he was impressed that even at the age of three, I could bowl with full over arm action. When I joined Delhi Private School in Dubai, my father spoke to cricket coach Prashanta Chanda. He was very impressed and told me to join the Young Talent Cricket Academy run by Shahzad Altaf.
“Meanwhile, Chanda took me to the school team. I started off as a fast bowler and played in Gulf Cup in 2009 and won the best bowler, Player of the Tournament and Man of the Match at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium.”
Rahul is indebted to former Indian Test star Madan Lal’s advice for transforming him into a spinner. “It was during the coaching of Madan Lal that he suggested I become a spinner. This was mainly because I could land the ball on a spot for hours, which I do even now. Coach J.P. Notiyal too suggested I turn a spinner.”