By the point Parthiv Patel made his Ranji Trophy debut in November 2004, he had already performed 44 first-class video games, together with 19 Take a look at matches.
By the point Patel made his Ranji Trophy debut, he had led India at an Underneath-19 World Cup in New Zealand, helped save a Take a look at match in England, gone to a World Cup in South Africa, scored Take a look at fifties in Australia and Pakistan, one in every of them on the high of the order to arrange a series-clinching victory. By this time, he had additionally already gone from wanting like probably the most naturally gifted of wicketkeepers to at least one totally quick in confidence and dropped from the nationwide group.
All this had occurred and he wasn’t even 20.
Patel, now 35, has introduced a most uncommon profession to an finish, and it is solely applicable that we glance again at that starting and surprise.
We will surprise firstly about all of the instructions that profession did not take; all these early parallels with different teenage prodigies, however finally this wasn’t a career like L Sivaramakrishnan’s, or Maninder Singh’s. Indian cricket was totally different in Patel’s time, and Patel was totally different too, maybe, higher cushioned to soak up the shocks of all that early success and failure.
We will additionally surprise about how Patel’s profession might need panned out had it adopted a extra standard trajectory. Take into consideration the workload of a Take a look at-match wicketkeeper, bodily and psychological, and take into consideration the truth that he got here to bear that workload at a youthful age than anybody earlier than him or since. There was an old-school purity about his glovework in his early days, all mushy palms and gliding toes, however you’ll be able to see why it started fraying on the edges when you think about that he had solely performed 9 first-class video games earlier than his Take a look at debut.
All the identical, it was straightforward to see why the selectors picked him so younger. There was the conserving promise, but additionally the batting smarts that allowed him to show a reasonably small set of instruments – his scoring pictures at that stage appeared restricted to the reduce, the pull, the glide to 3rd man and the clip off his legs – right into a Take a look at common of 31.85 by the point he was dropped in October 2004. It would not sound like a lot, however on the time it was the second-highest average, behind Budhi Kunderan’s 33.24, for any specialist wicketkeeper who had performed a minimum of 10 Checks for India.
There was clearly one thing to Patel’s sport, and India wanted it. Within the two-and-a-half years between the flip of the century and Patel’s debut, they’d cycled via Nayan Mongia, MSK Prasad, Saba Karim, Vijay Dahiya, Sameer Dighe, Deep Dasgupta and Ajay Ratra, and when Patel arrived it felt like they’d discovered – in each sense of the time period – a keeper.
That he wasn’t was maybe partly as a result of he was thrown into the deep finish far too early, but additionally as a result of India sailed from the shallows of the early 2000s to the depths of getting, at one level, all of MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Patel and Wriddhiman Saha in competition for the keeper’s position, with Rishabh Pant quickly to look on the horizon.
It is a credit score to Patel’s professionalism and love for the sport that he saved himself in that body for all these years, and that he may come again into the Take a look at aspect in 2016, at quick discover, open the batting, and rating 42, 67* and 71 towards England. He even bought to return to Australia in 2018-19 as a reserve wicketkeeper and repeat to Austin Waugh what his father Steve had informed him when he’d first toured the nation in 2003-04: “Son, you have been in nappies once I made my Take a look at debut.”
In all of the years away from India’s squads, Patel turned a vastly revered determine in home cricket, scoring match-winning lots of for Gujarat within the finals of the Vijay Hazare (50-over) Trophy and the Ranji Trophy, the latter in a record chase, and ending with over 11,000 first-class runs. He was an IPL common too, and if his presence on the high of the order for as many as six franchises raised quite a few eyebrows over time, think about this: of the 40 batsmen who’ve scored a minimum of 200 runs within the powerplay because the 2017 IPL season, Patel’s strike charge of 146.08 is the fourth-best total and the most effective amongst Indian batsmen.
There have been limitations past the powerplay, in fact, however these numbers have been but extra proof of the qualities out of which Patel has cast a most rewarding profession: the identical drive and intelligence that had allowed him, at 19, to tackle Shoaib Akhtar, the brand new ball and a energetic Rawalpindi monitor with a way of cherubic equanimity.