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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Batting all-rounder Axar Patel seals it for West Zone

Patel scored an unbeaten 64 against South Zone on Monday.

Chennai, Mumbai |
Updated: December 2, 2014 9:11:17 am
AXAR_M West Zone’s Axar Patel scored an unbeaten 64 on Sunday against South Zone in Mumbai. (Source: PTI)

By: Sriram Veera

Being underestimated is, for some people, a misfortune. For Axar Patel, it’s been a blessing. In 2011, he went to the National Cricket Academy to become a batsman. There were two camps — batting and bowling. He wanted to get into the batting unit but the coaches in that U-19 preparatory camp slotted him as a bowler. Perhaps, if that judgement call by the veteran coaches V Venkatram and Dinesh Nanavati wasn’t made, Patel wouldn’t have got as far as he has done.

Nine ODIs in his CV that also holds a possible call-up to the World Cup squad might not have happened for the 20-year-old had he remained just as a batsman. Not that he has forgotten his original love.

In fact, he still considers himself as a batting allrounder and he proved it on Monday again when he looted 68 runs from just 38 balls to help West Zone pull off a heist and enter the final of the Deodhar Trophy. It’s just that without his bowling, he might not have got close to the India radar. “It (coaches’ call to make him focus on bowling) has worked out well for me,” he admits with a disarming smile. But it’s clear that it’s batting that gives him greater joy. And it should as his batting seems better than his bowling at this stage.

“People have been telling me that I am a bowling allrounder and cannot bat. But I had entered the game as a batsman. I have always said I can bat and I have proved it often on the field.”

Today (On Monday) was one of the sterner tests of his career. Chasing 315, West Zone were tottering at 174 for 6 in the 33rd over when the boy from Kheda, short distance away from Ahmedabad, joined the belligerent Surya Kumar Yadav.

It was in the first over of Powerplay, the 36th of the chase, that he made one notice him. It was a full-length delivery that Vinay Kumar often slips in towards the end overs to his own detriment, but that’s a story for another day. Blink. The ball flew over long-on. It was a crisply hit, a free-flowing arc of the bat and which used to be referred as a ‘lusty’ hit by commentators in the days gone by. The next delivery was punched away over cover as Vinay shortened the length.

Still, it didn’t feel like the turning point or some such feeling of gravitas. As West were still a long way adrift from the target and South were just a wicket away from a win. It was Yadav who raised West’s hopes with a sparkling array of shots in that Powerplay, that yielded 67 match-turning runs. Dropped on 9 — a caught and bowled chance by Reddy and a dolly catch at backward point by Mayank Agarwal off Reddy, Yadav kickstarted the revival.

Yadav’s bashing

Yadav walloped Ashish Reddy and Vinay for two sixes and two fours in a couple of overs which triggered panic in South’s camp. Length was either too full or too short and the line didn’t matter as Yadav was either lapping them over square-leg or bashing them to the straight boundary. The equation came down to 87 from 12 overs and Yadav waded into Stuart Binny’s offerings in the 39th over.

A late-steer to thirdman boundary and a fierce cover drive were followed by a lapped six over backward square-leg boundary. He tried to repeat the shot next delivery but the pre-determination ended his stay, as it has done him quite a few times in his career. It was a low dipping full toss well outside off; he could have smothered it over covers but he went for the sweep/lap shot again and found Baba Aparajith at deep square-leg, leaving West to get 71 from 67 deliveries.

Patel responded pluckily to that setback. Off the first ball of the 40th over, Patel slapped a short delivery from Vinay for a stunning six over point before pulling another in that over to the midwicket boundary. He smashed Binny, who lost his rhythm in the end over, dealing in full-tosses and overpitched stuff, for a six and a four in the 41st over. Dhawal Kulkarni succumbed in that same over, hitting a mindless shot to long-on when he should have been just rotating the strike to Patel. Luckily, for West, Shardul Thakur didn’t over-extend himself and didn’t underestimate Patel, the batsman.

The pair needed 46 from 54 and they showed admirable maturity in opting for risk-free approach to get closer to the target. Patel reigned himself in and allowed Thakur to finish off with some fireworks in the 47th over – a biff over long-off, a thunderous hit over backward square-leg framed with a couple of fours in the off side — before Patel signed off with an imperious straight six.

Brief scores: South Zone 314 for 6 (Robin Uthappa 47, Mayank Agarwal 86, Baba Aparajith 56, Manish Pandey 55; Dhawal Kulkarni 3/64) lost to West Zone 319 for 8 in 47.1 overs (Sheldon Jackson 51, Ambati Rayudu 54, Suryakumar Yadav 80, Axar Patel not out 64, Shardul Thakur not out 31; Vinay Kumar 2/70, Stuart Binny 3/66) by 2 wickets.

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