PRAYAG BHATI – THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
GOD WANTS ME TO BE AN INSPIRATION, THE REASON HE’S DOING ALL THIS”, says Bhati, who has a ray of hope, lingering on the game. Have you ever thought of personifying determination? I will tell you, what it looks like when you try it. An epitome of determination, perseverance, and patience, Prayag Bhati. Age 29. the Mumbai-born all-rounder is into the professional scheme of things for about 15 years now.
He started attending coaching sessions at the meager age of 10. Honrao Academy, in Pune, was his first home. Coming from a very humble background, Prayag could not afford the fees then. Such was the simplicity of Mr. Honrao, (The owner), who had coached Prayag for one whole year, without charging a single penny.
As a stepping stone, Bhati then joined the Cadence Academy and played for the U13 level. “This was the turning point in my career”, Bhati recalls. This paved the way for the Polly Umrigar trophy and was the start of his professional career. A breakthrough season in the Polly Umrigar ended with Bhati earning the award for Highest Runs and Highest Wickets. And then, there was no looking back. Representing Maharashtra and West Zone from the U-15 levels, was just the start.
Thoroughly dominating the U19 Cooch Behar and the U22-U25 CK Nayudu, Bhati was destined for bigger things it seemed. The all-rounder stood out as the team talisman in the CK Nayudu, as he bagged the most runs among his teammates for two seasons running.
Bhati had his first taste of success when he made his Vijay Hazare debut in 2010. After an impressive U23 season in 2012-13, Bhati deservedly earned his Ranji Trophy Debut for Maharashtra in 2013. Syed Mushtaq Ali Debut? The very next season, in 2014. Everything looked as if it was a tale, already penned.
You always face some conflict, in your story, don’t you? Prayag suddenly experienced a downturn in fortunes. While he was living and accomplishing his dreams, the opportunities stopped knocking at his door. When questioned about his opportunities, “opportunities toh abhi tak mila hi nahi hai, yaar! I have been the 12th man for 30 Ranji Trophy games. For the last 7 years, I have been serving water. Despite me dominating every tournament, be it CK Nayudu or Syed Mushtaq Ali”, he added dejectedly.
When your very own don’t recognize you as deserving, you go to a foreign land to show your class. Bhati played in the Surrey Cricket League in 2016, representing Abhani Cricket Club. And guess what? He finished the tournament as the recipient of the Player of the Year accolade! In 10 matches, he scored 600 runs and scalped 25 wickets.
Finding an end to his frustration, Bhati returned to his homeland all fresh. Started working for Indian Customs Department (Pune Office) in 2015, Bhati played the sub-zone tournament every year. The champions of the sub-zone are selected for the west zone. Since the past four years in the sub-zone tournament, Bhati has proved himself by being the Man of the Match in the four finals.
In the 2017 zonal finals against Ahmadabad Customs, he scored 97. Although, the team could not get their hands on the silverware.
In 2018, Bhati’s patience was tested and finally played his last Ranji match for Maharashtra. Due to a lack of opportunities, decided to shift to Mumbai in 2019, and stand a chance to represent the Mumbai Team. The COVID 19 was a blessing in disguise for Bhati, as all of his cooling period has been spent, at a time where things were disrupted anyway. He was listed in the probables for the recently concluded Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali for Mumbai. But his cooling period was not over. He hopes to make the cut, come the next season.
“I am 29 down, with a high fitness level. If you perform once or twice in age groups, you get a chance to represent in the Ranji Trophy. But I have sent the bowlers to fetch balls! Dominated every age group, so have no idea what will I have to do, to get my deserved opportunity! You can’t read a selector’s mind. Can you?”, said Bhati, exasperatedly.
We all need someone to stand by us, during our tough times. Companies like BAS, Nike, SG, and Fast & Up have been Prayag’s pillars of strength. They have sponsored him and supported him all this while.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND RECORDS:
- Scored 22 hundreds and 5 double hundreds for Candence Cricket club, pune.
- Scored 1000 runs in CK Nayadu Trophy
- Scored 1000 runs in 7 innings in Cooch Behar Trophy
- 60 wickets taken in all age groups for State
- Fastest U19 Hundred
- Fastest U19 Double Hundred
- Fastest U23 Double Hundred
- Fastest U25 Hundred
- 34 ball 100
- smashed 6 sixes in an over, twice
- Scored 250 runs in three consecutive matches in the Cooch Behar trophy
- Been called for 3-4 franchises in the IPL.
- Rajasthan Royals trials:12 ball 50
- Kings XI Punjab trials:38 ball 80
Very confident of his abilities, Bhati is destined for bigger things. None of us are born to just struggle. We all believe that his struggles will end soon, and Prayag Bhati will make the bigger curtains in quick succession. The story is very inspiring. Whenever you are going through hardships, you would now recall Prayag Bhati, and keep yourself going.