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Who is Anuj Rawat, and why did Royal Challengers Bangalore pay big money for him?

The lowdown on the 22-year-old left-hand opening batter, whose storyline is not too dissimilar from Rishabh Pant's

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Anuj Rawat works one away on his way to a match-winning fifty against Mumbai Indians  •  BCCI

Anuj Rawat works one away on his way to a match-winning fifty against Mumbai Indians  •  BCCI

Anuj Rawat is into his third IPL season but is getting a proper chance to make his mark only now, with Royal Challengers Bangalore. Here's the lowdown on the 22-year-old left-hand opening batter, who led his team to a seven-wicket against Mumbai Indians.
Who is Anuj Rawat?
Anuj Rawat's story is a lot like Rishabh Pant's. He is also an attacking wicketkeeper-batter who hails from Uttarakhand, who moved to Delhi as a pre-teen to better his chances of a future in professional cricket. He is originally from Ramnagar, a town in Nainital district, famous for the Jim Corbett National Park. Like Pant, he is a naturally attacking batter who loves hitting sixes and takes on the bowlers right from the outset.
What earned him a price tag of INR 3.4 crore (USD 450,000 approx.) in the 2022 auction, and an opening slot at Royal Challengers?
Rawat made his Ranji Trophy debut for Delhi just before he turned 18, in October 2017, and he has been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit since then, especially against the white ball.
In the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy - India's domestic 20-over tournament - Rawat impressed, striking 15 fours and 10 sixes in just five innings. In the 2021-22 Vijay Hazare Trophy (the domestic 50-over competition), Rawat's average of 58.33 and strike rate of 108.69 was higher than any of his Delhi team-mates'. He also struck the most sixes (eight) for them.
Back in 2017-18, Rawat struck fifties in his first two Ranji Trophy matches and scored his maiden century in December 2018 against Madhya Pradesh when Delhi were at one point 36 for 5. His counter-attacking 134 off 183 balls helped Delhi secure a big lead and eventually seal a nine-wicket win.
RCB shelled out a lot for him because of his attacking strokeplay at the top, and because they lacked a left-hand batting option in their top and middle order.
What's his background?
Rawat was born and brought up in Ramnagar and he moved to Delhi soon after he turned 10. His father is a farmer back home, and his mother is a housewife. When he told his parents that he wanted to take cricket seriously, Rawat's father decided it was better to send his son to Delhi because of a lack of cricket facilities and academies in Ramnagar.
After a few years, in 2016-17, Rawat got a break in Delhi's Under-19 squad before he made his Ranji debut the following season, and he was soon picked for the Under-19 Asia Cup.
What's his story so far at the IPL?
This is Rawat's third IPL season overall, but only the second in which he is getting a chance to play. He was first bought by Rajasthan Royals for INR 80 lakh (USD 112,000 approx. at the time) in the 2020 auction, but he got his IPL debut last year. He got to bat only once and bagged a first-ball duck against Kolkata Knight Riders in Royals' last league game.
This season he has been opening for Royal Challengers in every game so far.
Has Rawat been an opening batter from the start?
In age-group cricket, Rawat was an opener, but when he played in the Ranji Trophy he had to move down to the middle order because of the team combination. On his IPL debut too, he played at No. 5, but Royal Challengers have decided to play him at his natural position at the top.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo