“I wasn’t expecting (Wriddhiman) Saha to get injured. It is really unfortunate, but that is how it is,” Parthiv Patel, the Gujarat wicketkeeper, told Cricbuzz in controlled excitement after getting selected In the Indian Test side.
Patel was playing the Ranji Trophy, leading Gujarat against Mumbai in Hubbali, Karnataka when the news of him being drafted into the Test side came out on Wednesday (November 23). With the Test in Mohali not far away, Patel had to hastily arrange a trip across the country, more than 2000 kms, to reach Chandigarh, Punjab that evening. The excitement of being back in the Indian team should beat the travel blues, though.
Patel’s selection came as a bit of a surprise, as neither was he a part of the recent India A squad for the Australia tour – a team for which Naman Ojha and Sanju Samson were initially selected – nor was he scoring as heavily as Rishabh Pant in domestic cricket this season. The contest was tough with the likes of Aditya Tare, Dinesh Karthik and CM Gautam doing almost as good as him or even slightly better. Nonetheless, even in the stiff competition, Parthiv was confident that his chance was coming.
“(I knew my chances were coming) since it was going to be a long season with 12-13 Test matches in home conditions and I was always amongst the runs and keeping well in domestic cricket. Though I was not in India A, I always kept speaking to the selectors and they kept saying, ‘keep doing what you are doing’. The biggest hope came when I went to Asia Cup as a keeper as MS Dhoni’s cover. So, I knew I had to be ready. I was working hard, so this is definitely not a surprise call,” he said.
Patel has played 20 Tests, 38 ODIs and two T20Is for India, he also is just 603 runs shy of notching up 10000 first-class runs. As a 17-year-old he received his maiden Test cap from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. He made a duck in the first innings, but went on to play 60 balls for his 19 in the 2nd innings, as India salvaged a draw in Nottingham. That was 14 years ago. Now, Patel comes into the side as a man of immense experience. In fact, when he made his Test debut, none of the players from across the current India or England team had played a Test yet.
Having made his debut as a 17-year-old and being earmarked as the future of Indian cricket, a string of poor show with the gloves resulted in his exit in just over two years, and barring a one-off match in 2008, he didn’t play a single Test since 2004.
Having started under Sourav Ganguly as a teenager, he will be playing under Virat Kohli as one of the senior members in the side, having been away from the eras of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and MS Dhoni. Even as a lot of things have changed since then, he believes that he’ll make a smooth transition to the new set-up.
“I haven’t entered the dressing room yet, I won’t be able to tell you what changes have come. What I have heard is that, it is an extremely exciting lot; everybody is keen to do things and trying to get Indian cricket to a different level. It will be great to join a lot of players who were with me in India A and who have played under me.
“I have kept my mindset up to date as far as fitness is concerned. I was training under Basu sir, who is the trainer of Indian team currently. So I’m up with whatever training programs have been going on, and even my performance in that aspect was up to date. So, it won’t be able alien condition for me when I enter the Indian dressing room.”
While Dinesh Karthik, Patel’s replacement in the Indian team, couldn’t capitalise on his opportunities, Dhoni took little time to cement his place in the side. And as a result, for nearly a decade, there was no vacancy for wicketkeepers in India. If at all chances came, it was only to fill-up for a brief period with the gloves or to get into the side on the strength of purely their batting skills.
While the 31-year old did up his game with the bat, and got to play a few limited-overs internationals as a batsman, for long he had to sustain the frustration of being in the fringes despite being one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in the country. “You can’t really do much about that, especially when you have a wicket-keeper/captain as good as MS Dhoni is. What he has achieved is remarkable. You can’t really worry about that, you can’t do much about factors that a not in your control.
“I wanted to improve my own game, I love playing cricket, I love going to the ground, working hard and doing all those things that a cricketer loves to.”