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India's fielding superstar and ICL hero Rajagopal Sathish

A boy who used to carry his cricket bat and pedal for 20kms to play cricket in a small town called Trichy, who made his dream come true of playing on cricket’s big stage – where international stars would play alongside him, where he would leave all stunned with his acrobatics on the field – meet India’s fielding superstar Rajagopal Sathish.

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Feature 29 May 2015, 04:37 IST
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Rajagopal Sathish for Tamil Nadu, Chennai Super Stars and Kings XI Punjab(clockwise left to right)

A boy who used to carry his cricket bat and pedal for 20kms to play cricket in a small town called Trichy, who made his dream come true of playing on cricket’s big stage  – where international stars would play alongside him and thousands watch his brilliant show in the field, the man who has left all stunned with his acrobatics on the field – meet India’s fielding superstar Rajagopal Sathish.

After completing Mechanical Engineering at Jayaram College of Engineering and Technology in Trichy, Sathish had moved to Chennai to pursue his dream of taking up cricket as a profession. 

Born on January 14th in 1981, Sathish got into the Tamil Nadu Side when he was just 19. He didn’t have the greatest time for his state side, quite regularly in and out of the squad. This prompted him to join the Assam team for Ranji trophy during 2003. This was a new beginning for his cricketing career as he scored his first century against his ‘former’ home team Tamil Nadu and went on to score 204*. This knock made headlines in Tamil Nadu as he was recalled to his original team a year after he had averaged 54 playing for Assam.

The rebel league which made him a star

His return to the Tamil Nadu squad was not as glorious as he had hoped. However, during this point of time, Zee Entertainment Enterprise blasted onto the scene with a brand new concept of setting up a T20 Cricket League in India. They offered good remuneration, infrastructure, regular tournaments and also the experience of having lots of foreign players to play with. This new venture, the ICL, attracted a lot of the cream of first class cricket in India and Sathish was one of them. 

In the year 2007, the ICL kicked off, Sathish being fortunate to be in his home team Chennai Super Stars, captained by former Australian batsman Stuart Law. In a match against Kolkata Tigers, he took what was then dubbed as the ‘Catch of the Century’ to dismiss Upul Chandana. This made Tony Greig, Dean Jones and company think out loud – “Is this guy from South Africa? With such athleticism, why isn’t he playing for India?”

Here is that catch taken by R.Sathish to dismiss Upul Chandana:

Sathish’s show won the hearts of teammates Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Russel Arnold – the team combining well to win the inaugural T20 title. Whenever Stuart Law sat out of the team, Sathish was given the responsibility of leading his team. His captaincy skills were appreciated by cricket experts Chris Harris, Steve Rixon and the like. Sathish played the role of the finisher with the bat and a handy bowler who could bowl a few gentle mediums when called upon.

He has the highest number of Man of the Match awards in the rebel league, and a strike rate more than 160. Being a livewire on the field and endowed with a brilliant cricketing brain, the IPL which followed the path of this very rebel league, seemed to be an ideal platform for the Trichy lad.

Playing in Indian Premier League

Sathish was recruited by Mumbai Indians on strenght of his ICL showing. In his IPL debut against Rajasthan Royals, he was slapped by Yusuf Pathan to all parts of the ground. This was also the first match in the season for his team, before which their coach had said in an interview – “Watch out for the best fielder in India, R.Sathish. He can do wonders in the field which can never be expected”.

He had a forgettable day with both ball and bat but he showed a flash of his magic when he was bowling to Paras Dogra and Yusuf Pathan was the non striker. Watch the video below:

With Kieron Pollard at point, Sathish at gully, Andrew Symonds at cover and Rohit Sharma at extra cover, he was part of a terrific fielding group in the Indians team. He failed to get a fixed role as a batsman in their squad though, always moving up and down the order.

For Kings XI Punjab, Sathish got a larger role as the finisher, but it was again as a fielder that he set the IPL stage alight. One such effort was this run out of MS Dhoni, which looked like an easy two. Two of the quickest among the CSK players were out at the centre. But the couple wasn’t to be, because of a man called Rajagopal Sathish.

Just watch this video:

 

The highlight of Sathish’s IPL career came during the record partnership with David Miller for the 5th wicket, when they added an unbeaten 130 runs against RCB. This is still a record for the fifth wicket in IPL history. The duo had paired up when the team was 64/4 at 9.5 overs, and they chased down 194 in the 18th over.

Cricket after IPL

Not considered in the 2013 IPL auction onwards, Sathish played for his state and moved to England to play division 3 league matches on occasions. In the year 2014 he was appointed as the captain for the Tamil Nadu One Day and T20 sides.

He has carried on the good work as captain of his state as well, this video will provide an illustration of how he led in the field by example. On his vibrant, acrobatic fielding, Sathish said, “When others see a couple of fielders throwing themselves at the ball, it creates a certain bonding in the side.”

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