A date with 'Lagaan bhai'
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A date with 'Lagaan bhai'

Munaf Patel hails from the place where 'Lagaan' was shot ? Bharuch. So it is little surprise that his friends and teammates fondly call him 'Lagaan bhai'.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 13:54 IST

Munaf Patel has all the trappings of a 'Lagaan' cricketer— complete with that rustic feel and dialect heavy accent.

Interestingly, he also hails from the place where the blockbuster was shot— Bharuch in Gujarat— so it is little surprise that his friends and teammates fondly call him 'Lagaan bhai'.

"He is quite a sight when he takes the run up with his mop of rough, unruly hair flying all over. And the way he catches a ball, it appears he is catching a hen back in his village— he is very much like the characters in Lagaan," was how one of his friends in the domestic circuit described the bowler.

The 22-year-old Munaf made a memorable Testdebut on Thursday when he got the prized scalp of Kevin Pietersen in England's first innings and when asked for his reaction, the unassuming cricketer could just manage to mutter this much -- "'khush hoon' (I'm happy)".

The raw pace of the bowler— he regularly touches 85 miles per hour— has also earned him the nickname of 'Bharuch Express', obviously a take on the illustrious bowler from across the bowler— Shoaib Akhtar who is referred to as 'Rawalpindi Express'.

But the comparison between the two pacemen stops here— Munaf knows he still has a long, long way to go before he can really earn a name for himself.

And discipline is one aspect of his bowling in which is clearly lacking at the moment.

Indeed, when he first came into the limelight during a practice match against New Zealand in 2002, he caught everyone's eye with his pace.

But the weaknesses in his bowling were soon exposed and the authorities realised it was perhaps premature to have thrown him onto the international stage.

Munaf was promptly told to concentrate on Ranji Trophy and the bowler, not one to lose heart easily, took it as a challenge and worked hard to mould himself into a disciplined bowler.

The bowler credits Maharashtra, whom he represents in Ranji and coach Chandrakant Pandit for the positive influences on him.

"Maharashtra supported me. Chandrakant Pandit also encouraged me all the way. He taught me many things," he said.

Munaf, dismissed by some as a non-thinking cricketer, is nonplussed by such criticism.

"I have been following our fast bowlers' performance and trying to learn from them. They did a good job in Pakistan, I feel very nice when fast bowlers perform well."

The bowler has got the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong in this Test against England, who were the rivals for the 'Lagaan' team as well!

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 13:33 IST