It was a Friday. Ajaz Patel had just returned home from the mosque when the news broke out. Two consecutive mass shootings occurred at mosques in terrorist attacks in Christchurch, resulting in the death of more than 50 people.
Calling it a ‘climate of fear’, the left-arm spinner narrated what went through their minds and how the Kiwi community came together to make them feel included post the terrorist attacks. Speaking in Hindi at a media interaction on Tuesday, Ajaz said, “Jo terrorist attack hua tha usmei obviously humari Muslim community pe impact hua tha. Kaafi ghabrahat wala mausam tha. Jumma ka din tha, hum namaz padhkar aaye the ghar par. Fer news nikla. Jis tarah se humare New Zealanders aur Prime Minister ne response di, aur jis tarah se puri community ne jo response diya, uss wajah se mai bolta hu ki jo humei pyar, mohobbat aur jis tarah se humari puri community ko include kiya. (The terrorist attack had a huge impact on the Muslim community living there. It was a climate of fear. We found out the news just after returning home from the mosque on Friday. But the way our New Zealanders, Prime Minister as well as thee whole community responded – with love – we felt included.”
“Jaise meri mummy agar ghar se burkha pehenke nikleingi, toh usmei koi problem nahi hai, woh bindass ghum sakte hain, koi kuch bolega nahi. Jo padosi hain, jab terrorist attack hua tha aur humara naya ghar bann rha tha, toh humare naye padosi, jo shift bhi nahi hua, unhone humei aate jaate dekha burkha mei toh soche Musalmaan honge. Jab attack hua, woh ek paudha laakar rakhe stairs pe jabki hum wahan rehte nahi. Aur unhone humko chithi likhke rakha ki hum aapke support mei hai. Toh jaise wahan log rehte hain miljulke, uss tarah se mereko dil mei yehi hai ki ek community hai. (For example, there is no problem when my mother leaves the house wearing a burkha. No one will say anything. When the terrorist attack hapened, our new house was getting constructed. We used to visit it often. So our neighbours must have seen us and realised we are Muslims from the burkha. After the attack happened, they got a plant for us and kept it on our stairs, even when we weren’t living there. They even wrote us a letter to show their support. So people have a strong sense of belonging there and they live together as one big community.)”
Ajaz Patel smashed records left, right and centre as he added to his tally of 10 wickets from the first innings with 4 more scalps in the second against India in Wankhede on Sunday, taking his figures to 14/225. With a match haul of 14/225, Ajaz now has the best bowling figures in a Test against India.
But that still did not land him with the ‘Man of the Match’ award, which went to Mayank Agarwal, who scored his fourth century and fifth half-century in this match, instead while Ravichandran Ashwin bagged the ‘Man of the Series’ award.
Asked if he was expecting the ‘Man of the Match’ award for his historic feat, he said, “Not at alll. To be honest with you, acolades are another thing altogether. I have no real passion or drive towards these things. Whoever gets it is obviously most deserving. Ashwin bowled perfectly throught the series and definitely put us under pressure. He deserves that award as well. For me it is about putting my best foot forward. To be honest, I don’t think any award is going to make it more special. These conditions are challenging for everyone. In Mumbai, it really wasn’t to be. We have taking back a lot of learnings from this series and will work on them once we return back home.”
“It was a very special week for me in terms of individual achievements. But from team’s perspective, we didn’t finish the series the way we would have liked. We took a lot of learnings out of them. When we return back, it will be a challenge,” he added. “The support has been very humbling. There are so many messages that I haven’t even gotten back to. Got a lot of support back home in New Zealand from friends and family. It has been very special. It is humbling but sometimes overwhelming. Because it is not something you are used to but it is very special.”
Speaking on the making of ‘picture perfect’ Axar, Patel, Ravindra, Jadeja, the 33-year old said, “That photo speaks a lot about the sporting world and what sports can do. Sports has the ability to bring people together, not only here but all around the world. There is rivalry on the field but off it, it’s a gentleman’s sport, it adds value to each other’s games. We were having a conversation since they had played in various Indian condidtions. The beauty of that photo came thanks to a lot of people. A lot of us thought on the same page, we thought it would be a really cool photo.”
With friends and family watching from the Wankhede stand, Ajaz’ historic feat became all the more special. “I have got a lot of friends and family in Mumbai. A lot of my extended family is here and my wife’s family as well. At the same time, I have got my immediate family back in New Zealand. So for me, it was very special to play in Mumbai in front of friends and family,” he said.
He, however, missed out on his favourite Indian foods during the tour but plans to get back to them when he returns to India on a vacation. “Yeh tour mei sabse badi cheez yeh thi ki meko cricket khelna tha aur uske liye important tha ki mai apni body ka dhyan rakhu. Humei body recovery ke hisaab se dekhna padta hai ki hum kya kha sakte hain kya nahi. Toh jab chutti pe aaunga toh zarur khaunga. (The most important thing during the tour was that I had to play cricket. And for that, it was essential that I take care of my body. We have to see what we eat according to our body recovery. So when I return on a holiday to India, then I will definitely indulge in my favourite foods.)
“There are so many stakeholders in my journey and it would be injustice to leave out anyone. There are so many people who have contributeed but the biggest support has come from my family – my mom, dad, wife, my extended family – aunties, uncles, cousins – both in New Zealand and India. It’s not easy what we do spending so much time away from family. I have got a young daughter now and she has to sacrifice the time with her father. I have had numerous coaches and they have all been amazing. So it would be injustice if I leave anybody out,” he said.
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