Cricket Xtra: Patel proves timing is everything in cricket

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In fine nick: Parthiv Patel

In batting, it is said that batsmen who rely on timing and placement deliver more runs over a longer period of time. The idea is that muscle power can diminish over the course of a day but hitting the ball with the right technique and follow-through can be repeated over after over.

There is another area where timing of a different kind plays a crucial role. And that is performing in the right place, at the right time.

Not every player sets the stage alight at the first go and sometimes has to wait for another opportunity. In some cases, that wait can extend to many years. It’s up to the individual to keep himself fit and motivated when that opportunity does come knocking.

Take the case of Parthiv Patel. Until last year, he was not on the radar when it came to wicketkeepers in limited overs or Test cricket. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was, until the beginning of this year, the captain and keeper in coloured clothing and he is the best in his business.

In Tests, Wriddhiman Saha had been doing a decent job, even though his batting lacked that extra edge. When Saha got injured during the five-Test England series last year, the Indian management began looking far and wide for able replacements.

And that’s when they realised there aren’t many new or dynamic keepers around. Naman Ojha’s keeping abilities weren’t of the highest level while youngsters like Rishabh Pant had not played in the domestic circuit long enough to be pushed into Tests.

So the selectors zeroed in on Patel, who had been pushed to the back of the line after being a regular member of the team nearly a decade ago.

Patel made his Test debut in 2002 at the age of 17 and despite showing good technique with the bat, fell short when it came to wicketkeeping. So he went out of reckoning, playing one Test in 2008 and a handful of ODIs in 2010-11.

But just when it looked like he had gone completely off the radar, Patel scored a century for his state team Gujarat in the final of the domestic 50-over tournament in December 2015 to help lift the title.

Then in the 2016-17 first class season, Patel continued his fine run by scoring 415 runs in his first eight innings at an average of 59.28, with three fifties and a century.

Coincidentally, the other possible contender for the wicketkeeping position was another forgotten gloveman – Dinesh Karthik. However, while the keeper was in decent form with the bat in the first-class season last year, Karthik fractured his finger and couldn’t keep wickets.

Karthik had also lost out on opportunities to keep wickets following the rise of Dhoni and Saha but once a vacancy opened up, it was Patel who had the runs and form to attract the selectors’ attention.

The left-handed Patel has grabbed his opportunity with both hands. And I have to admit I was sceptical about his selection to begin with. He hit two fifties in three Tests against England, with 11 catches and two stumpings. His glovework improved after his first outing and his batting was as solid as ever.

After the Test series, Patel went back to the domestic circuit and continued his fine form, helping his state team Gujarat win their maiden first-class Ranji Trophy title. He smashed 143 that allowed his team to chase down an imposing target of 312 against heavyweights Mumbai on Saturday.

So within a span of one year, Patel has gone from the wilderness to the middle of the national set-up, overtaking the incumbent Saha and also keeping Dhoni on his toes. What a difference good timing makes.

ACCIDENTAL HERO

Mohammad Hafeez was not included in Pakistan’s original ODI squad to face Australia. He hadn’t delivered the big runs in the domestic circuit and his bowling action has only recently been cleared. But after Pakistan were blanked 3-0 in the Test series, he was made a late addition to the side at the team management’s request.

What’s more, after skipper Azhar Ali got injured, Hafeez was named the stand in captain for the second one-dayer.

He promptly led his team to their first ever victory against Australia in Australia in any format in 12 years by scoring 72 at the top of the order to go with his tidy spell of 10 overs for 45 runs.

At a time when Pakistan cricket is facing a crisis of sorts, any help is welcome. That it came from a veteran life Hafeez will give Pakistan’s management a lot of relief.

With Test veterans Misbah-ul Haq and Younis Khan in the final stage of their careers, Pakistan badly need experience in the team. Azhar is the only other player of any stature, along with wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed. That’s simply not enough.

If Hafeez can find some solidity in his game and hold his position in the team across formats, he will make the job of Pakistan’s management that much easier as they begin to plan the way forward.

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