Aged 41, when most cricketers retire, Mumbai's Pravin Tambe made his debut in IPL 2013 for Rajasthan Royals, with no first class cricket background. A year later, Tambe, 42, is the oldest player in the IPL after making his first class debut with the Mumbai Ranji team. He still believes, and rightfully so, that age is no bar for cricket.
Cricket and leg spin happened to Tambe accidently after a short stint with dreams of turning a professional footballer. He then moved on to become a tennis-ball cricketer, and his domestic T20 performances are proof that he can be quite handy with the bat as well.
The real limelight for Tambe, however, came in the Champions League T20 2013, where he earned the Golden Wicket award for picking up 12 wickets in five matches. His performances and Rahul Dravid's faith in his bowling skills have helped the Royals buy back the talented spinner in the auctions this year.
Tambe got a full-time trainer only after IPL 2013 and that has helped add variety to his armoury. When asked about his favourite delivery, he said it was "the flipper, which skids after pitching up". The first and the most obvious question that's so often posed to Tambe is about his age. He is so used to the question now that he can reply before it is completed.
"If you love the game, then age doesn't matter," Tambe told the IPL official website. "For me age is just a number. I have been playing regularly, so that reflects in the fitness that you see."
Tambe has been lauded for his googly and flipper quite often. But he says he started off as a fast bowler and leg spin was all but a happy accident.
"I was a fast bowler earlier and bowled with the new ball for Orient Shipping," Tambe said. "One day my captain asked me if I would bowl spin. He knew I used to bowl spin with the tennis ball, and so he asked me if I would. I did, and I got three wickets and we won the match. Since then, I decided to bowl legspin. It's been about 13-15 years since I started bowling legspin."
Rajasthan bought Tambe back with the "Right to Match" card in the IPL 2014 auction. And that came as a delight to the Mumbaikar.
"When a team uses the "Right to Match" card for you, that means something," Tambe added. "They have shown a lot of faith in me and I will be giving my best shot for them.
"In this team, all they tell you to do is express yourself. The way Paddy Upton and Rahul Dravid speak, you can feel that there are no seniors or juniors. And so you see performances in the team."