Axar Patel’s graph has been on a spectacular upward curve ever since his debut in the 2014 edition of the IPL. Known as a reluctant cricketer in his younger days, the left-arm orthodox spinner has grown in stature and is now one of the top performers for KXIP. In the 2017 season, Axar had scored 227 runs and picked up 15 wickets; stats that may have been considered by the KXIP hierarchy as they made him their sole retention ahead of the 2018 auctions. This year, KXIP bear a new look under skipper R Ashwin and bears of some of the biggest hitters in the game among their ranks with veteran India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh amongst them. Speaking to the indianexpress.com Axar spoke about how the 2011 World Cup winner is helping him with his batting, how he is getting to learn more about the game with his new captain R Ashwin and a certain Afghanistan teenager who could be an “X-factor” for KXIP.
Yuvraj Singh may not be featuring regularly for India but the wealth of experience he possesses has helped youngsters hone their skills over the last few years. Speaking highly of his fellow southpaw, Axar said,”Yuvraj is one of the legends of the game. We keep talking to each other whenever we can. His main point is that each player has his own mindset and technique. Follow your strengths is his mantra.”
“His knowledge of the game is immense and he shares it with me often. In the net sessions, he tells me that if the ball is in your area then you should go for it and if it’s not in your zone then you should know how to manoeuvre it. He keeps insisting that I focus on my strength. So yeah, he does help me with my batting,” he added.
Axar and Yuvraj also have something else in common as well. On May 1, 2009, Yuvraj Singh took his first ever hattrick for KXIP in IPL. 7 years later on the same date – May 1, 2016, Axar Patel also took an IPL hattrick for KXIP.
When asked if he has added any extra while preparing for IPL 11, the 24-year-old said,”Playing on such a big platform, you know your strengths and weakness and with each passing season you do need to bring in a few changes. As far as bowling is concerned, I stick to my plan. A lot of people have told me that I bowl fast and should reduce my pace but I have my own gameplan and I stick to what I have been doing best.”
KXIP have got the ball rolling in IPL 2018 with a comprehensive win over Delhi Daredevils. Emphasising on the need for a good start in such a massive tournament, Axar said, “A victory in the first match gives a huge boost. It is a new team this season which will take time to gel together and since we were playing at home, getting off to a winning start was important for this campaign.”
Since Axar was also the only player retained by KXIP think-tank, the general assumption would be that the left-armer would be under pressure to deliver this season. Is it really the case? “To be honest there is no pressure and neither has the team management given any additional responsibility. So I haven’t felt anything like that,” revealed Axar.
India’s premier off-spinner R Ashwin was roped in by the Punjab franchise as their 11th skipper, hoping that he will change the fortunes for them. Giving an insight into his captain’s mindset, Axar said that Ashwin’s thinking ability is spot on and the offie is a great reader of the game. “He can anticipate what a batsman is going to do and that matters a lot. We also get to learn how a big player thinks. For example, young Mujeeb Zadran can also get a lot to learn from him as he points out the nuances of cricket.”
— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) 10 April 2018
By roping in 17-year-old Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman, KXIP have added the mystery element in their ranks and have a tweaker who can bowl the traditional off-spin along with different variations. Recently Mujeeb became the youngest player ever to play in the tournament after making a memorable debut against Delhi Daredevils. Praising the teenager’s skills, Axar said, “At such a young age he has achieved so much and that is brilliant. He uses his intellect while bowling and knows when and where to use the variations and that is what causes a lot of problems to the batsmen. If he can continue to replicate his performances then he can definitely be the X-factor of the team,” he signed off by saying.