Explained | Who is Pravin Tambe, the subject of Hotstar’s new cricket biopic?

After years of playing club cricket in Mumbai, the leg-spinner made his IPL debut in 2013 at the age of 41

April 06, 2022 02:45 pm | Updated 02:45 pm IST

Pravin Tambe of Rajasthan Royals celebrates the wicket of Eoin Morgan during the IPL Twenty20 cricket match against Sunrisers Hyderabad at ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam on April 16, 2015.

Pravin Tambe of Rajasthan Royals celebrates the wicket of Eoin Morgan during the IPL Twenty20 cricket match against Sunrisers Hyderabad at ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam on April 16, 2015. | Photo Credit: DEEPAK K.R.

The story so far: The OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar released on Friday, April 1, ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’, the Shreyas Talpade-starrer cricket biopic of 50-year-old Indian cricketer Pravin Tambe. The film directed by Jayprad Desai, also stars Anjali Patil, Parambrata Chatterjee and Ashish Vidyarthi. 

Who is Pravin Tambe?

An Indian legspinner and all-rounder who played tennis-ball cricket and club cricket in Mumbai for 20 years without getting to play a single high-level match, Pravin Tambe sprung up in the mainstream at the age of 41, when he was selected by the Rajasthan Royals to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Born in 1971, the cricketer started playing gully cricket at the age of 15 in the Mulund suburb of Mumbai. Tambe dipped his toes in the city’s club cricket scene as a medium-paced bowler in the 1995-96 season of a domestic league of Mumbai’s D division, playing for the Parsee Cyclists Sports Club, according to cricket news site ESPN Cricinfo. He then went on to play in the B Division for the Parsee Gymkhana and eventually, played in the A Division’s top league for the prestigious Shivaji Park Gymkhana, which has churned out many a first-class player for Indian cricket, including Shreyas Iyer, Ajit Wadekar, Vijay Manjrekar and the brothers Baloo and Subhash Gupte.

Tambe’s fate, however, was not slated like other Shivaji Park Gymkhana greats, as he never got a chance to play a first-class match for 20 years from his first club cricket stint.

Tambe’s father, Vijay Tambe, also played suburban cricket in his early years. The cricketer got married in 1999 to Vaishali, now his wife of 23 years. He spent almost the next decade-and-a-half working odd jobs which offered cricket quotas.

He juggled jobs to make ends meet while continuing training and taking part in the maidan or ground cricket tournaments organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association, such as the suburban cricket league called the Thosar Shield Cricket, and the corporate cricket league known as Times Shield Cricket, where teams of companies compete against each other from four cricket divisions.

He first took part in the Times Shield league while working for a shipping company called Orient Shipping. It was here that he began to make the shift from medium-paced bowling to wrist-spinning, after being asked by his team’s captain at Orient to bowl a leg-spin during a crucial match. It was also during his time here that he met India and Mumbai's fast-paced bowler Abey Kuruvilla, who later became the sports director at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Sports Academy and a selector at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

After playing in the Times Shield for a couple of years, Tambe met with a roadblock when Orient Shipping closed down its cricketing unit owing to budgetary constraints. He resorted to gully cricket matches and local tournaments again, until securing a job at the DY Patil Sports Academy through Kuruvilla’s reference, as a construction supervisor. The academy allowed him to represent its B team and he went on secure them plenty of wins. He was also the Liaison Officer for the initial five years of IPL, when matches were played at the DY Patil Stadium.

All through these years, however, Tambe kept trying to achieve one thing — playing for Mumbai’s Ranji Cricket team. He tried his luck at multiple consecutive selection sessions and was even named in the Ranji Probables between 2000 and 2002. In the late 2000s, he kept getting rejected owing to his age.

In early 2013, while serving as the captain and coach of D Y Patil’s team, he got an 11th-hour chance to play for its A team in an invitational T20 match, replacing a player who got injured. It was this opportunity that became the tipping point of his career.

Little did the cricketer know that the scouts of the Rajasthan Royals were taking notice of him during the invitational T20 match. Rahul Dravid and others from the Royals’ coaching tank had also noticed Tambe when he would frequent their net practice sessions at the DY Patil Stadium.

Some months later, Dravid called Kuruvilla asking him to send Tambe to Jaipur to take part in the Rajasthan Royals selection trials. His selection would have Dravid facing raised eyebrows from team members and the team’s CEO at the time. Tambe, however, managed to make his debut in the IPL in 2013 as the first player to make his entry into the league at the age of 41. He also became one of the few players to make their T20 debut without having played professional first-class cricket matches.

During a 2014 speech at the Design for Change Conference, Rahul Dravid spoke about Tambe as a cricketer who inspires him and “signifies passion” in the game of Indian Cricket.

What are his career highlights? 

While he did not play many matches in IPL 2013, he created a spark the same year by receiving the Golden Wicket Award at the Champions League T20 for picking up the highest number of wickets that season. This was also the year that marked the realisation of the cricketer’s Ranji Dream, when he got to represent Mumbai in two first class matches.

During IPL 2014, his pot of wickets was simmering slowly until May 5 that year, when he made history in a match against the Kolkata Knight Riders by taking a 2-ball hat-trick off a wide ball and two legal deliveries, dismissing Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate. Tambe also bagged Man of the Match Awards and held the Purple Cap (for picking up most wickets) till the 25th match of that season. He also picked up the wicket of Indian cricket legend and former Chennai Super Kings Captain M.S. Dhoni.

He played for the Royals for two years to then be selected by Gujarat Lions in 2016, but he could not play because of the team’s subsequent suspension of two years. In 2017, he was picked up by and played for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

In 2018, he announced his resignation from Indian cricket in order to take part in the T10 league Abu Dhabi, as the BCCI does not allow an Indian player to participate in foreign leagues. In that format as well, he set a record by taking five wickets for the Sindhs team in one game, by dismissing Chris Gayle, Eoin Morgan, Kieron Pollard, Fabian Allen and Upul Tharanga in a match against Kerala Knights.

He withdrew his retirement when he was selected by the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2019 auction to play in IPL 2020. However, he was disqualified because of the above mentioned BCCI rule, for playing in the Abu Dhabi T10 league a year earlier.

In 2020, at the age of 48, Tambe retired again and became the first Indian player to play in the Caribbean Premier League, where he represented KKR’s sister franchise, the Trinbago Knight Riders.

He currently works as a KKR support staff and the team screened his Hotstar biopic for the entire squad on April 1.

The movie ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’ 

Actor Shreyas Talpade, who has previously portrayed a young cricketer in the 2005 film Iqbal, plays Tambe in ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’. His wife Vaishali is played by Newton actor Anjali Patil, while Ashish Vidyarthi plays the character of his coach. The film, though adapted from real-life events, has fictionalised elements such as the character of a journalist perennially dismissive of Tambe, played by Kahaani actor Parambrata Chatterjee.

Instead of depicting the years of Tambe’s mainstream cricket glory, the film focuses on his journey of 20 years playing local cricket, as he juggled family life and unrelenting disappointment in fulfilling his dream.

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