Rahul Sawant: T20 Mumbai’s ultimate show ‘stopper’

The 28-year-old was the most economical bowler in Season 2, finishing with an unbelievable economy rate of 5.04

With T20 cricket being a batsman’s game, having a bowler that is consistently economical and has a knack of picking timely wickets is an invaluable asset to any team. For Season 2 champions North Mumbai Panthers, that asset was left-arm orthodox Rahul Sawant, who bowled at an economy of under a run a ball in each of his six appearances in the campaign.

He watched from the sidelines in the Panthers’ first game of the season against the Eagle Thane Strikers, and after a tough outing for their bowling unit, the management decided to hand Sawant his debut in their second game of the campaign against the NaMo Bandra Blasters.

"After observing how the pitch was playing for the first few days, I knew we’d go in with an extra spinner in the second match," Sawant said. "So, I was fairly confident that I’d get a look in."

The spinner repaid the management’s faith by bowling a magnificent spell of 2-15 in his quota of four overs at a stingy economy of 3.75 runs per over. In the subsequent game against the ARCS Andheri, Sawant was at his brilliant best yet again, giving away just 14 runs in three overs while picking up the big wicket of in-form Akhil Herwadkar in the very first over of the contest.

Over the course of the season, the 28-year-old was consistently tasked with bowling in the powerplay overs and the challenge did not faze the spinner. "After I bowled well in the first game, the coaches felt I could do well in the powerplay," Sawant explained. "I was comfortable in that role. I bowl a tight line and cramp the batsmen for room. If they can’t free their arms, they can’t score big. I played to my strengths, did some study on particular batsmen in the film room and that was the key to my success."

Sawant made a habit out of dismissing the opposition’s most dangerous batsman and it was on full display against the Aakash Tigers Mumbai Western Suburbs and Triumph Knights Mumbai North East in the Panthers’ final two league stage matches, where he picked up the prized wickets of Aakarshit Gomel and Suryakumar Yadav, respectively, to ensure victory for his side.

In the semi-final against ARCS Andheri, Sawant went wicketless for the first time in Season 2 but gave away just 23 runs in his quota of four, which was key in restricting the opposition to just 166 which the Panthers chased down on the last ball of the match.

Defending just 143 in the final, the Panthers were in the hunt for early wickets and Sawant proved his worth yet again, dismissing Japjeet Randhawa in the first very over and finishing with figures of 1-21 on the night, playing a key role in his team’s triumph over the SuperSonics.

Sawant finished Season 2 as the league’s most economical bowler, giving away just 5.04 runs per over, while also picking up seven wickets, the most by a Panthers spinner in the campaign. However, upon being asked how crucial he was to the Panthers’ success, Sawant deflected and credited the team as a whole. 

“At the end of the day, it was a team effort. Prithvi Shaw’s leadership and the coaching staff, especially Umesh Patval and Ajay Kadam sir, were instrumental in getting the best out of us. Be it Karan Nande in the first few games, Pravin Tambe in some matches, Atif Attarwala in the final. Someone always stepped up and that was the key to our triumph this season,” he concluded.

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