It’s bungalow 13,” Parthiv Patel says on the phone. “Should not be difficult to find.”
One would have expected the former Indian wicketkeeper, who has been struggling the past couple of years to make a comeback into the Indian team, to avoid his new house have anything to do with number 13.
Parthiv answers the doorbell himself. He appears rounder and that accentuates his chubbiness. In his pedal pushers, sports tee and glasses, he looks more like a college kid who has just returned from his classes and is waiting for his mom to serve him dhokla.
Parthiv speaks fondly of his opulent new bungalow in one of the swankiest areas in the city — Vijay Chaar Rasta.
“Isn’t it everybody’s dream to own a big house? We needed a spacious house. I used to live in a three-bedroom apartment earlier.
“Fifty to 70 per cent of this house has been designed by me. Whenever I went to Australia or England I would study the homes there and take notes. But I got time to work on this bungalow only after I was dropped from the Indian team.”
The shift to comparatively safer locales in a city prone to communal violence is a relief, says Parthiv.
He was born in the Walled city area, comprising a mixed population. “Yeah, communal riots were quite regular there,” says Parthiv. “Every time there were riots I would go to my uncle’s place in Narainpura and stay there and practise cricket.
“During the 2001/02 riots I stayed there for two months,” says Parthiv. “Around that time I went to South Africa with the India ‘A’ team.
“I was concerned about my family and would call them daily. I could hear explosions, gunshots and noise in the background. My dad would point the receiver towards the window and I could hear everything.
“I was only 16 then. I was worried but thankfully it did not affect my concentration.”
Parthiv’s life has been a roller-coaster since then. He has spent two years at the top level playing 19 Tests and 14 One-day Internationals. He was dropped from the Indian team in 2004 after a string of poor performances with the gloves. The last two years he has captained Gujarat.
Yet, Parthiv is only 22. Current India wicket-keeper and Parthiv’s usurper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, made his international debut at 24. Dinesh Karthik, number two in the Indian wicket-keeping pecking order, is as old as Parthiv.
“A cricketer peaks between 22 to 30. And I get a feeling that I am getting better with each day.”
About Karthik and Dhoni, Parthiv says, “Karthik has played well in whatever limited opportunities he has got. But I would consider that I am still in the fray because it is a long season and form will not be good all the time for Karthik or Dhoni. Even I was warned of this when I was with the Indian team.”
Parthiv is more relaxed at home. Sitting down on his swing in the balcony of his room, he says, “This is my favourite place in the house. I can relax and watch the world go by.”
Does he feel cheated the way things went wrong for him? Does he feel that the best is behind him? “I wouldn’t say I feel cheated,” Parthiv says. “I rather consider myself fortunate to have gotten to play at such an early age.
“I always believe that my best is yet to come. Maybe others feel I am only 22 and that I will not be able to handle this. But I look at my age as an advantage. I still have a lot of time on my hands.”
The deep voice, which mismatches with the baby face, does not give away any hidden emotion. “Now, I know who is a friend and who isn’t,” he says.
“I have seen certain people behave differently after I was dropped from the Indian team. There were people I used to call up and talk to everyday. But now they don’t answer my calls.”
Financially too Parthiv says the change has been drastic. “The income has certainly gone down. But, thankfully, I grew up in a lower middle class family and had my feet grounded all the time.”
Being a rare Test cricketer from Gujarat has brought its own share of controversies. The local press once went into overdrive with rumours that Parthiv has secretly married. When Irfan Pathan emerged as a more popular cricketer the local press had stories of Parthiv being overshadowed and jealous of the Baroda pacer’s success. “I read them. But Irfan is one of my closest friends and we meet regularly.”
It is Parthiv’s turn to question. “You are writing a series on dropped players?” he asks. Not waiting for an answer he says, “Actually, I feel like I am peaking now. I just need a good domestic season.”
That domestic season is still some time away. Till then, he can hope Bungalow No 13 brings him luck.