India’s newest Test cricketer, Axar Patel, made a dream debut against England when he became the sixth Indian spinner to take a five-for on debut that ushered the Indian cricket team to a glorious victory.
What made Axar Patel’s maiden match even more remarkable was his first-ever wicket in the whites. The left-arm spinner opened his tally with the prized wicket of England captain and one of the finest batting talents of the world, Joe Root, and scalped him again in the second innings.
Patel outfoxed Root and five other Englishmen by spinning the cherry skillfully on the dusty tracks of Chepauk to end with magical debut numbers of 100/7 – the eighth-best figures for an Indian debutant.
However, it took Axar Patel nine long years to finally showcase his talent on the highest stage of the world after making his First Class debut for Gujarat in 2012. Here we take a glance at his journey through the years.
FROM PACER TO SPINNER
Born in Anand in Gujarat, Patel aspired to be a batsman and a pace bowler in his early days and even won the best bowler award at the intra-district level. But occasional spin bowling drew him closer to the art of left-arm spin.
After attending a National Cricket Academy camp in 2011, he permanently added left-arm spin to his repertoire, which already boasted a strong batting skillset. Patel continued the work on his game, becoming a promising all-rounder and was soon awarded a spot in Gujarat’s List A and First-Class teams in 2012 as an 18-year-old.
THE NATION TAKES NOTICE
Patel’s all-round prowess caught the attention of Team Mumbai in the Indian T20 League 2013 and was then picked up by Team Punjab in the following season. He repaid the faith of the new owners by snaring 17 wickets in the 2014 edition, the sixth-highest of the season, following which he was handed an ODI cap and even made it to the 2015 World Cup squad.
Patel was making steady progress in the longest format of the game too, winning the Ranji Trophy for Gujarat in 2017 under the leadership of former Indian wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel. But the all-rounder’s spot in the Indian team was already settled so the wait to earn the elusive Test cap became longer.
To bolster his chances of making it to the red-ball team of India, Patel traveled to England for a stint in county cricket in 2018, where he represented Durham. He scored an unbeaten 95 and took three wickets on debut as his bid for a Test call-up intensified.
INJURY MEETS OPPORTUNITY
The reason for Patel’s long wait for a Test cap was the presence of another left-arm bowling-allrounder, Ravindra Jadeja, who had all but cemented his place in the national team.
Patel had a perfect chance to fulfill his dream of representing India in the longest format as the like-for-like replacement for Jadeja, who was ruled out of the ongoing England series with a dislocated left thumb of his bowling arm. However, Patel suffered a knee injury while training for his long-awaited debut and was ruled out of the first Test.
Patel used the missed opportunity to study the opposition for when the call comes, he is fully prepared. “When I was watching the first Test I noticed that Joe Root plays a lot of sweep and reverse sweep shots, and I thought that with the speed that I bowl at, I had the opportunity to get him out,” he revealed.
Years of preparations finally bore fruit when Patel was handed the navy blue cap by Virat Kohli in the second Test. He used the notes from the sidelines of the first match to dismiss five batsmen in the second innings and help the team to a series-levelling victory.
Patel earned plaudits from the entire cricket fraternity for his stellar show and also gained a spot in the third Test at his home ground in Ahmedabad. He continued his bowling prowess at his home and ended the Test with nine wickets to his name including a five-for as India won by 10 wickets.
For the last and decisive Test of his debut series, Axar was an automatic pick and he proved his worth again by scalping nine including a five-for to end the series with 27 wickets in his tally, that included a four five-wicket hauls.
After these performances, the future doesn’t look anything but bright for the 27-year-old.
Read: How Rishabh Pant Became the World’s Top Gloveman in Tests
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