Parthiv Patel ‘reinvents’ himself: Parthiv Patel who made a ‘comeback’ to the Test arena after a hiatus of eight years, clearly showed what his slog in the domestic circuit has taught him.
The diminutive wicket-keeper batsman brought all his domestic experience to the fore and put up an excellent performance, both, in front of the stumps and behind it in the third, fourth and the fifth Tests against England at Mohali, Mumbai and Chennai respectively.
Speaking to Sanjay Manjrekar after hitting the winning stroke in the third Test match at Mohali, Patel said, “I was very nervous before the start of the Test. The kind of welcome I got from the dressing room (he was returning after 8 years), it never felt I was joining them after eight years. That”s the beauty of this team. Playing aggressively suits my game. The intent was very important, and I backed myself. Ashwin was brilliant. The way he varied his pace was brilliant. He deceived even me. There wasn”t much help in the wicket.”
Drafted into the squad and into the Playing XI for the Mohali Test, thanks to the injury to the original wicket-keeper, Wriddhiman Saha, which he picked up in the second Test, the Gujarat skipper rose to the occasion and made all heads turn.
In fact, Patel played the dual role of opener in place of KL Rahul and also donned the gloves on behalf of the wicket-keeper, Wriddhiman Saha. The left-hander notched up 109 runs (42 in the first innings and 67* in the second), held 4 catches (2 in each innings) and effected a wonderful stumping, removing Ben Stokes off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.
His knocks in both the innings were very crucial since one of the openers needed to play a significant role to give a good start and to put up a sizable total.
Patel’s knock in the second innings was more significant, as India had to chase 103 runs for a win and Murali Vijay got out in the very second over without even opening his account.
Batting alongside his skipper Kohli, Patel accumulated the runs with his customary ‘upper cuts and drives’ and hit the winning boundary in the 21st over.
Asked to bat in the middle order in the fourth and pen ultimate Test match at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, since Rahul returned to the Playing XI, Patel could not score anything significant.
Scoring only 15 runs in the only innings that India batted, he picked up the catches of Chris Woakes in the first innings and that of Jake Ball in both the innings. Patel also was instrumental in stumping the England skipper, Alistair Cook in the first innings.
Restored to the opening slot alongwith KL Rahul in the fifth and final Test played at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai, due to a shoulder injury to the regulation opener, Murali Vijay (who batted lower down the order), Patel scored a very valuable 71 runs (his individual best in Tests, thus far) and also was instrumental in establishing a partnership of 152 runs for the first wicket.
This partnership was crucial in helping the home team notch a mammoth 759 runs for the loss of 7 wickets (decl) in their first innings and take a huge lead of 282 runs over the visitors.
The diminutive wicket-keeper also had held on to the catches of Jennings, Root, Stokes and Adil Rashid in England’s first knock.
Featuring in four innings from three Test matches in this series (remaining unbeaten once), Patel has scored 195 runs (with a couple of half-tons) at an average of 65 and personal best of 71 runs.
With this kind of a performance, it would be gross injustice to Patel, if he were to be dropped from the Test squad.
With Dhoni donning the ‘big gloves’ in the shorter formats of the game, it’s highly unlikely that Parthiv might find a place in the squad, though, with his aggressive batting he would be able to unsettle the opposition bowlers.
At 31 years and 266 days, Parthiv is no youngster. Would it be right to retain him as a second wicket-keeper for the overseas tours?
At a time when a few youngsters like Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, CM Gautam, all doing reasonably well in the domestic circuit and vying for a place in the national squad, the selectors would be required to think ‘out of the box.’
Very obviously, Patel cannot be considered as a ‘long term prospect’ since age is not on his side. If the selectors want to groom a youngster to take over from Saha at an appropriate time, then Patel would not feature in the long term scheme of things.
However, the team management can also look at retaining Patel as a batsman in the Playing XI, leaving the glove work to Wriddhiman Saha.
Replying to the question whether Patel could be retained as a batsman, Kohli, at the end of the Mohali Test had said, “You never know, there are all kinds of possibilities. The way he (Parthiv) approached both innings, it was amazing to see. That”s where experience from the first-class level comes into play. He”s someone who”s played (for India) at a very early age and he”s come back and the intent he showed in both innings, I think, just deflated the opposition. Credit to him to go out there and counter-attack and take on their seamers. You never know. We”ll see what happens in the next few days. We”ll take a call accordingly.”
“I think he really stood out in this game for me as a batsman.”
Post the England series, the selectors also would be required to take a call on Patel and also keep the long term view in focus.