Axar Patel must be a happy man sitting in the environs of the Melbourne Cricket Ground with the Indian team. Filling in for the injured Ravindra Jadeja, the 20-year-old will look to make it count ahead of the 2015 World Cup. If his recent performances are anything to go by, then observers believe the Gujarat lad stands a good chance of making the final cut for the premier ICC event next year.
Miles away in Delhi — Axar’s state team Gujarat — is stated to play their final away match of the Ranji Trophy league stage. While the Delhi chill will be a worrying factor for the visitors, the absence of Axar — has compounded their woes even further. His absence would mean that Gujarat would face Delhi with one spinner short, and his services with the bat lower down the order will also be missed.
“Axar’s absence is a huge blow for us but then we are taking it positively as he is on India duty. It is a happy moment for all of us and we wish him the best. We have come here to play positive cricket and will try our best to put up a good show,” says Vijay Patel, the Gujarat coach.
Although he has picked just nine wickets in three games, Axar has done bulk of the bowling for Gujarat, bowling 109 overs at an impressive economy of 2.45.
The Delhi chill and Axar’s absence notwitstanding, Vijay Patel’s side also have injury concerns ahead of their duel against Delhi. Romesh Powar and Venugopal Rao are doubtful starters. While Powar, who has been nursing a back injury since the first game against Rajasthan, Rao has been undergoing rehab for his hamstring strain.
Despite the concerns, there was no lack of enthusiasm in this young Gujarat side as they were going though the drills at the Kotla. Collecting 12 points from three games — first a comfortable win gainst Odisha and then clinching first innings lead against Saurashtra and Rajasthan.
Notching up two wins in as many games, facing Delhi at the Kotla will be a different proposition for this young side.
Powar’s ouster hasn’t been much of a worry for Gujarat so far as off-spinner Jesal Karia took over the responsibility. But the management will surely be hoping that the former India bowler joins the side against Delhi as his experience will play a big role against Delhi.
If Powar manages to play, he might be the second off-spinner with Karia. The combination might not be troublesome for the hosts, who have left-handers Gambhir and Varun Sood in their ranks.
Filling up the spot
This is where a left-arm spinner makes the difference. While one-match-old Pranjal Sutaria may make up for Axar’s absence, it will be interesting to see how he steps it up and fits in Axar’s boots. “Axar was able to hold both left-handers and right handers and knew how to control the game,” Patel says.
Meanwhile, Gujarat’s pacers in Rush Kalaria (13 games), Kushang Patel (10 games) and Jesal Karia (11 games) are all young and short on experience. On the other hand, pacer Ishwar Chaudhary, who was dropped from the Saurashtra game has 25 games under his belt. Despite the paucity of experience in the bowling, the hosts would do well to not take them lightly.