Nadiad is a blink-and-miss city close to Ahmedabad, most of which could be defined as indifferent. Not the Kumbhnath Road, where the Santram Housing Society - home to Axar Patel and family - stands.
Axar's parents, Rajeshbhai and Pritiben, and his uncle's family together occupy the two-floor house, with four rooms on either level. Axar's elder sister, Shivangi (23), has moved out after tying the knot last year.Still, they remain a close-knit family, the biggest priority of the 20-year-old despite his rise as an India player. "Axar was always quiet and obedient. Even today, if we have guests, he will sleep in the drawing room, maybe even on the floor. Success will never go to his head," says Pritiben.
The player's father brings out a pile of newspaper cuttings containing articles, photographs and scores from every game Axar has played. The doting dad even writes match reports of his own. "One day when he is done playing, he will value it. Now, I can't wait to get started with his World Cup tales!" says Rajeshbhai, hands folded before the photograph of a god.
Studies to sport
But for destiny, the youngster could have been completing an engineering degree.
An outstanding student, Axar decided to give up engineering once cricket promised him a future. But cricket didn't come up on the horizon until five years ago.
Fitness was of primary importance to Rajeshbhai, and he pushed his son into regular exercises as a kid. But Axar didn't stick to it for too long. That is when Kheda Cricket Association came as an option. Axar's father took him to Sanjay Patel, the association's secretary, who has kept a close eye on the player's development. However, Axar would often give coaching sessions a miss, preferring to play tennis ball cricket with friends.
Lesson in discipline
Patel narrates an episode when Axar was pulled up. "He was the captain of the district team then. But for four-five days, he had not been seen at the nets. I asked another player to get in touch with him and ask him to report at the ground. I then asked him to give up his captaincy and come back when he was serious. After standing silently in a corner for some time, Axar came up to me and promised it would be the last time he skipped practice. It indeed was. After that there was no stopping his growth," recalls Sanjay.
Swapnil Patel, a junior selector with the Gujarat Cricket Association, says: "We were playing for the district. I was Axar's senior and he was under-16 then. But there was so much to learn from him."
It was four years ago, however, that his cricket took a turn for the better. At a National Cricket Academy camp in 2011, Axar the all-rounder was born, having been a batsman until then.
Spinner by chanceThe NCA camp had both batting and bowling groups. Since the batting group was packed, the coaches asked Axar to join the other. He bowled some left-arm spin, adding utility to his game. With his bowling, he had given another reason to be selected. But he calls himself a batting all-rounder. "I am glad I can bowl decently too. Or else, how would I have been selected in the India team?" Axar had said during the Deodhar Trophy in December.
At his house, the brown scraped walls and the four cabinets reserved for Axar's trophies and laurels demand attention. His selection as an India player and his value in IPL may have eased the financial burden on Rajeshbhai, but there was a time when the mill worker masked his economic hardships to fulfill his son's dream. "It was not easy being a joint family," he says. "But I never let him feel the pain. I never wanted him to feel money was the reason why he could not play cricket.
"Today, I'm content."