The man who made his India debut in 2002 as a teenager but failed to establish himself as his keeping was not up to mark, earned the reward last month for not losing his passion for the game. Recalled to the India side following injury to Wriddhiman Saha, Patel contributed behind the stumps and as stand-in opener.
While that puts Patel, still only 31, in the frame as back-up Test stumper and opener with India scheduled to play abroad for most of the coming season, his brilliant show in the Ranji final has now turned him into a contender with Saha when the selectors pick the side for the home Test series against Australia in February-March.
Patel’s strong comeback into the conscience of cricket lovers reflects his attitude, hailed after Gujarat’s brilliant win over champions Mumbai in the Ranji final as well as his easing into the India dressing room after an eight-year gap.
It will provide an interesting sub-plot to the Irani Cup starting on Friday. The Ranji champions will look to excel, but the Gujarat skipper’s performance will be compared with Saha’s in the Rest of India side.
Proud moment for all of us..thank you all for the wishes.. pic.twitter.com/xryunLbILF— parthiv patel (@parthiv9) January 14, 2017
Saha is making a comeback, after suffering a hamstring injury in the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam, which opened the doors for Patel.
When the England series started, Saha, 32, had settled in nicely. While he is seen as India’s best keeper, his batting too had grown. He hit a century in St Lucia and unbeaten half-centuries in both innings in the Kolkata Test win over New Zealand.
But Patel did everything that was asked of him. He opened in the Mohali Test, after KL Rahul’s injury, scoring 42 and 67 not out. Skipper Virat Kohli, who had been clear that Patel was only a stand-in, praised his effort in Mohali.
“…That’s where experience from first-class level comes into play. The intent he showed in both innings deflated the opposition totally. Credit to him to go out there and counter-attack the seamers. He really stood out for me as a batsman, as a keeper he did well. So you never know, let’s see what happens in the next few days and we will take a call accordingly,” Kohli said.
At the end of the England series though, Patel was seen as a perfect back-up as opener and keeper. But the Ranji final showing can hasten his regaining a regular spot.
In the final at Indore, it was Patel’s positive approach that helped upstage 41-time champions, Mumbai. Patel scored 90 to ensure a 100-run first-innings lead before scoring a superb 143 in the second innings, prevent Mumbai from piling on the pressure as Gujarat chased down a Ranji record fourth-innings target of 312.
Even when he was with India, Patel kept in touch with his state team. “I was aware of what was happening,” he said after the Ranji final. “I used to talk with the coaches almost every evening. We have a set pattern of playing, and everyone knew it.”
A decade and a half ago, Patel was seen as not mature enough to handle the pressure of wearing the India shirt. Perhaps moulding his state team could be the perfect route back for another long innings with the national team.