Left-arm spinner Axar Patel has taken Sunil Gavaskar’s stinging criticism in his stride and says he is determined to prove the former India captain wrong with consistent performances, starting with the five ODIs in Australia next month.
Any established international cricketer will probably pay heed to what Gavaskar has to say about him but for a newbie like Patel, it was an eye opener.
“I was taken aback to be honest. I guess anyone would be, if it comes from somebody of the stature of Gavaskar sir. He is a legend of the game. But then I thought everyone in the game including Sachin Tendulkar had to face criticism at some point. So I took it in my stride. I am sure sir (Gavaskar) will be happy if I can him prove him wrong,” Patel said from Alur where he is playing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Gujarat.
Gavaskar made the compelling comments against Patel in July but the selectors continue to have faith in his abilities, at least in the shorter formats. The tenacious tweaker will be up for selection in the five ODIs Down Under though he doesn’t find a place in the T20 squad.
“Fortunately, I have been a part of the ODI setup since then (July) and performing decently,” says the Anand-born cricketer who has played 22 ODIs and four T20 Internationals since making his international debut in June 2014.
Gavaskar ruled him out as India’s alternative spinner in Tests, called him a mere roller of the ball and someone who is predictable because he mainly bowls flat and doesn’t offer flight. Patel took it all on the chin and looking back, he feels like a matured professional.
“Agar aap criticism dil pe loge to kuch haasil nahi hoga. Mom dad ka bahut support raha. Unhone bola ‘kuch to hoga tere mein jo tujhe India ke liye khelne ka mauka mila’ (It is not going to help if you take criticism to heart. My parents, friends supported me a lot when all this happened. My parents said ‘you ought to have something special that you are playing for India’).
“What I have learnt after all this is that one should not think negative for long irrespective of whatever is said about you. Amid this phase, I also got to know who my true friends were,” he recalls.
Patel, who played four of the five ODIs in India’s last assignment against South Africa, is not spending too much time dwelling on what he will do in Australia. He will continue to bowl flat more often than not, without worrying about the naysayers of course.
“Australia is still sometime away. Right now the focus is to do well for Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare knock-outs. I have been experimenting with flighting the odd ball but I realise my strength is to bowl back of a length and trouble the batsman with bounce.”