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All-rounder Axar Patel gives Rahul Dravid ‘nice little’ options

Improved by leaps and bounds, Patel ensures team does not miss injured Jadeja
Axar Patel.
Axar Patel.
File picture

Our Special Correspondent   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.01.23, 05:33 AM

The embers of hope were flickering out when Axar Patel came to the crease in Pune on Thursday evening.

India had been reduced to 57/5 in 9.1 overs and required 149 off 65 balls. Even the presence of Suryakumar Yadav didn’t offer much hope but Patel produced a superhuman effort with the bat to bring India tantalisingly close to the target.


Though India eventually lost the second T20I against Sri Lanka by 16 runs, Patel showed his true potential with big-hitting skills.

The left-arm spinner has moulded himself into an all-rounder, his maturity and power providing the much-needed gusto as the hosts kept the match alive till the last over.

Patel brought up his maiden T20I fifty in astounding fashion as he took just 20 deliveries to reach the mark.

Shivam Mavi’s late-order heroics did provide the late flourish but Patel’s fight in the company of Yadav did show glimpses of the emergence of a finisher in the game’s shortest format.

On a day when the pacers floundered, Patel pulled India back into the game with four overs that cost only 24 runs and picked two wickets. Then came the defining innings of 65 that nearly dashed Lankan hopes.

His emergence has provided the right dose of zeal for a team struggling to cope with the absence of an injured Ravindra Jadeja. If Patel can sustain his form with the bat, he will provide balance in the team not just in T20s but also in the ODIs. With the 50-over World Cup only months away, he can truly stake his claim along with the likes of Jadeja and Washington Sundar.

Patel may not have the tenacity and hallmark of an all-format player but his variety in bowling has always been much improved than Jadeja’s one-dimensional stuff.

If he can keep producing these sorts of innings in tough situations, including two left-arm spinning all-rounders in the XI cannot be ruled out on subcontinent wickets.

The performance left even Rahul Dravid satisfied. “I think in T20 cricket, whenever he (Axar) has got the opportunity, he’s done really well... so, that’s really a good sign for us, people like him, people like Washi (Sundar) not getting a game, he’s batting really well and obviously Jadeja coming back as well gives us nice little (options) in that spin-bowling all-rounder area,” the head coach said.

“I think in our spin bowling all-rounder’s slot our stocks are pretty good at the moment,” Dravid said.

“Shahbaz (Ahmed) was also part of the squad and considering that Washington (Sundar) is there and then Jadeja as well so we are happy with that.”

Dravid too has been a bit surprised with the way Axar has improved his batting. “He is certainly doing a really good job and his batting is coming on (by) leaps and bounds. We always knew his quality with the ball and it was just about developing his batting. He is working really hard on it. Honestly, we had identified him more than a year (ago).

“It’s (batting) an area of his game that we have identified, we know that it’s important for us to have that and whatever opportunities Axar has got, especially with Jadeja missing quite a lot of cricket, he hasn’t let us down in Test cricket, ODIs, whether it’s been here,” added Dravid.

The next few limited overs matches will perhaps provide a sneak peek into Patel’s versatility. If he can use optimum use of the long handle, his place in the limited overs teams will be hard to dislodge.

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