Veteran domestic allrounder Rajat Bhatia has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, bringing an end to a career that started in 2000. Bhatia, 40, last played first-class cricket in 2018-19 for Uttarakhand, but not being selected for the 2019-20 season and his own interest in pursuing a career in biomechanics made the retirement decision an easy one.
"I was keen on pursuing a career in biomechanics, and when I didn't hear back from Uttarakhand last season, I thought it's best I focus on my interests outside the game too instead of blocking a youngster's place," Bhatia told ESPNcricinfo. "I've pursued a biomechanics course with specialisation in training and pain management in the USA. It is a one-of-a-kind course. There are many biomechanics practitioners in India for bowling, but very few in my field, so I wanted to break new ground there."
Bhatia played 112 first-class games, scoring 6482 runs at an average of 49.10 and taking 137 wickets at a shade under 28. In List A cricket, he had 3038 runs at 41.05 along with 93 wickets. It was the IPL though where his value hit greater heights; his canny right-arm medium pace mixed with slower ones made him a difficult bowler to get away during the middle phase. He was part of the title-winning Kolkata Knight Riders side in 2012.
"Individually, dismissing Sachin Tendulkar thrice in the IPL is among my cherished memories, but as a team, winning the IPL in 2012 remains my favourite," he said. "At the IPL, a lot of international cricketers didn't rate me highly. They thought with my pace, I wouldn't be able to trouble many top batsmen, so the fact that I managed to play in the IPL for ten years and enjoy the kind of success I did in a way was something I cherish, because I was able to prove people wrong." In all, he played 146 T20 games, scoring 1251 runs and picking up 111 wickets.
Bhatia started his career with Tamil Nadu before moving to Delhi in 2003-04 and played most of his cricket for them. His 525 runs and 26 wickets in nine matches - including a 139 in the final against Uttar Pradesh - were instrumental in Delhi lifting the Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. He played 81 first-class games for Delhi before moving to Rajasthan in 2015 after he was left out of the Delhi Ranji Trophy squad in the wake of administrative troubles in the Delhi circuit. In 2018-19, he moved to Uttarakhand and led the new entrants to the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy.
In 2008, he travelled to Israel with India A along with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, M Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha, but Bhatia didn't make much of it.
"I thought that tour was a mere formality, where we were promoting cricket, so I didn't look at it as coming close to playing for India," he said. "For me, I drew more satisfaction from playing for Delhi and winning the Ranji Trophy with them in 2007-08. We had a terrific side, with some prolific India players like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra. Guys like Shikhar Dhawan, Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli were just making their mark. That period was really good for Delhi cricket."
Bhatia also dabbled in Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League where he played four List A games for Mohammedan Sporting Club in 2018-19. That remains his last appearance in representative cricket.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo