12th man in cricket is generally the first substitute player who misses selection in the final eleven but is still part of the team. Though he cannot bat or bowl, he can replace one of the injured players as a fielder. But exceptions come and that stays in history.
The first Irani Trophy match was played between Bombay and the Rest of India in Delhi. The tournament was conceived during the 1959-60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy championship. A fiery cricketer from Delhi, Prem Bhatia, was named the 12th man for the Rest of India team. Lala Amarnath was the captain and a national selector too. But to everyone’s surprise, the captain decided not to include himself in the batting XI and give a chance to young Bhatia as a batsman.
Bhatia, perhaps the only 12th man to play in both the innings of a match in cricket history, batted with ease and poise and knocked 22 in the first innings while batting at No 9 and 50 in the second innings while batting at No 3. The 20-year old was absolutely delighted by the opportunity given to him by ‘Lalaji’. Amarnath also included Bhatia in the Indian Starlet team which toured Pakistan in 1960.
Prem Bhatia who later served as manager and selector of Delhi team also had another rare feat. In a Deodhar Trophy match between North Zone and South Zone at Vijayawada on 25th January 1985, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar and Chetan Sharma failed to report due to travel issues. Prem Bhatia who was the manager of Delhi team stepped in and forced to include himself in the playing XI to compensate the absence of those players. North Zone won the match.
Prem Bhatia passed away on 13th March, 2018 due to prolonged illness at the age of 78. He made his first-class debut in 1958-59 against Eastern Punjab. He played 55 matches in which he scored 2543 runs at an average of 31.01 with 6 centuries. His highest was 151. He also took 36 wickets for Delhi at an average of 30.75.