Thirty-seven-year-old Rajesh Pawar, who has been working hard in local tournaments, hopes to participate in the IPL.
At the age of 37, most cricketers decide to hang up their boots and leave the game forever, Mumbai’s veteran cricketer Rajesh Pawar refuses to do the same. The left-arm spinner leads ‘Parkophene Cricketers’ in the A Division of Kanga League. He still believes that he can give the Indian Premier League one last shot. He was also named as the chairman for Mumbai’s Under-19 selection committee earlier this year.
“I have been working hard in the local tournaments, which has helped me stay fit. I saw Pravin Tambe making his first class debut at the age of 41, which has inspired me to try and give IPL another shot,” says Pawar who has featured in only one game in the IPL.
Pawar had been working for Indian Oil under the cricketer quota since the last 17 years and he admits that this job helped him become stable financially, giving him a “sense of security”. He debuted for Mumbai in 1997 at the age 17 playing with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Amol Mazumdar. Belonging to the minority of left-arm spinners, he was viewed as a prospect back then. He went on to lead the Mumbai Under-19 side and was part of the Indian U-19 squad at the 1998 junior World Cup, a side that comprised Mohammad Kaif and Harbhajan Singh. He was the revelation in the 1999-00 domestic season, grabbing 44 first-class wickets and coming close to national selection but he missed out.
After a six-year long spell with Mumbai, he moved to Baroda for bigger challenges. “It was a challenging time for me. I left Mumbai for the very first time and Baroda was a completely different city. Zaheer (Khan) told me to join him in the Baroda team and so I did. In the first year, I could not cope up. It was the second year when Sandhu (Balwinder) became the coach and encouraged me. I enjoyed my time with the Baroda team and that was when I was called up for the Indian Team that went to Bangladesh but I missed out on the starting eleven,” describes Pawar.
He has had a solid career in the first class format bagging 281 wickets in 84 matches. Pawar has been unlucky on many occasions, but he has never let frustration take a toll on him. “When I got the chance to play for Mumbai Indians, the opposition got bowled out at 60 odd runs and I could not get a chance to bowl,” he quips. “I could not get a chance to play for Delhi Daredevils where I spent two seasons.”
On being asked about his new role as the U-19 selector, he replies, “The pool of talent has always been fantastic in Mumbai. There are a few exceptional players who I cannot name but I will be looking forward on giving them
Avishkar Salvi, Raju Sutar and Santosh Shinde will be the other selectors with Pawar. Currently, the experienced cricketer wants to pursue the game as he wants to follow his passion. Once Pawar is done, he wants to move ahead and train young players and share his experience with them.