When Sanship Patel spotted his younger brother’s name in Kings XI Punjab’s starting line-up for their opening game, he wasted no time. He rushed to a neighbour’s house to borrow a projector, promising to return it once IPL7 was over. The wait was finally over after all for Kheda’s Patel family.
Their son, all of 20, was making his debut on the glamourous T20 stage. And over the following few weeks, Sanship has ensured that the projector has remained switched on whenever Punjab have taken the field, allowing everyone in the neighborhood to catch the left-arm spinner in action on the giant screen.
“Last year he (Akshar) was with Mumbai Indians but he never got a chance to really play. We waited for the day to come when we would get to see him on TV. The only time he did was as a substitute. When he was picked for Kings XI, we somehow knew that we will see Akshar playing,” says Sanship.
On Monday, Kheda, located a few kilometers outside Nadiad, was celebrating their new-found local hero’s latest star showing in the IPL. The lanky Akshar had returned figures of 1/18 against Delhi Daredevils, including the wicket of Kevin Pietersen before scoring a radiant 42 to guide his team home in a tight run-chase.
Overall too, with eight wickets at an economy rate of 6.45, the Gujarat all-rounder has managed to hold his own in the Punjab dug-out despite Glenn Maxwell overshadowing all comers with his incredulous batting exploits.
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Sanship remembers the time when his sibling’s coach Sanjay Patel came and requested Rajesh, their father, to not enroll his son for a science degree in order for him to focus more on his cricket.
“A science student generally is in college from 8 to 3, which means his opportunity to play cricket is drastically impeded upon. He is a sharp learner on the cricket field, and he knows his limitations very well, which is his greatest strength,” Sanship said.
He also recalls Akshar never having been a conventional left-arm spinner, preferring to focus on bowling consistent lines and lengths. His height has ensured that he also generates disconcerting bounce on occasions. But there were a few coaches who wished to change his bowling style when Akshar attended the Zonal Cricket Academy in Bangalore a few years earlier.
“They wanted him to give the ball more loop. That would have changed his bowling style completely. Somehow Akshar managed to convince them to retain his natural style. The wickets soon followed,” he added. For now, the Kings XI Punjab management must be glad that he stuck to his guns.