In 2002, Parthiv Patel was the new kid on the block, talented enough to play Test cricket at the age of 17. Eighteen years down the line, as the diminutive ‘keeper-batsman retired from all forms of cricket on Wednesday, he finished with 25 Tests, 38 ODIs and two T20Is.
That he stayed relevant as a cricketer for close to two decades spoke volumes for his love of the game and hard work. India’s ‘keeper-batsman’s landscape changed entirely after the arrival of a certain MS Dhoni in 2004-05. Parthiv, like Dinesh Karthik, had to fight against someone for a place in the Indian who was undroppable. And yet, the left-hander didn’t throw in the towel. He embraced domestic cricket and whenever opportunities came, he was ready to play for India. That he played his last Test against South Africa at Johannesburg only two years ago attested his longevity. Along the way, he played a huge role in making Gujarat a major force to reckon with in domestic cricket.
“There was one time in 2009 when India went to New Zealand. I had scored 800 runs in the Ranji Trophy and scored (a) hundred in the Duleep Trophy final and the call didn’t come. I thought probably this was it. But then I thought of something else and it was to build a team,” Parthiv told reporters during a virtual media interaction on Wednesday.
He did achieve his goal, leading Gujarat to the Vijay Hazare Trophy triumph in 2015 and the Ranji Trophy title next season. His 143 in the final against Mumbai helped Gujarat pull off a record run chase.
But it was the early part of his career, when he was looking to be cementing his place in the Test team, was special. He was part of Sourav Ganguly’s India that won against England at Headingley. A year later, he was in the team during India’s memorable Test series in Australia – it ended 1-1. Then, at Rawalpindi in 2004, he scored a half-century in India’s innings victory against Pakistan.
“I would always hold Sourav Ganguly as a leader in true sense with his man management skills. Sourav and Anil Kumble were great leaders and they made me the kind of person I am,” Parthiv said.
“I still have the Test cap with my name wrongly printed, ‘Partiv’, that Dada gave me. The victories at Headingley (2002) and Adelaide (2003-04) and the half-century, opening the innings at Rawalpindi, will be my favourite memories.” he added.
Parthiv finished with 934 runs and 72 dismissals in Tests, and 736 runs and 39 dismissals in ODIs. In first-class cricket, his tally stood at 11,240 runs and 563 dismissals in 194 matches. “I still believe in Test matches, your best ‘keeper should play, like Wriddhiman Saha for India,” he said.
As he hung up his boots, he offered an advice to teenagers who aspire to play for India. “Stay as much as possible away from social media.”