Steve Waugh was one of those cricketers who revelled in playing under tough circumstances. He would often fail to deliver when the scorecard read 300/3 but ‘Tugga’ would bring out the best in himself as a batsman when the chips were down. He was a man who commanded huge respect as a steely character on the field and a benevolent soul off it.
Australia is battling hard to save the last test match of the Border Gavaskar Trophy. He starts off watchfully and tries to dig deep in order to play a substantial match saving knock under pressure. Amidst such tense conundrum, the veteran of 168 Tests hears Parthiv Patel say, ‘’ Come on Steve, just one more of your popular slog sweeps before you quit!’’
Steve was quick with his riposte, urging Patel to show him some respect and also reminding him that the latter was in his nappies when Steve wore the baggy Green cap. Ironically, Steve got out in his final innings playing the same shot.
Notwithstanding such audacity from a 17 year old rookie, the mentioning of Parthiv Patel’s name brings about a smile on the face of any Cricket Fan who followed Indian Cricket in the 2000’s.
The retirement of any Cricketer who has played international cricket brings about a serious discussion on his stats; deciphering the strengths and weaknesses with meticulous judgement. But, Parthiv Patel has a queer and Romantic association with the game that can‘t be justified only through robust statistics.
In his case, you don’t really remember moments of aggression or spiteful sledging. On the contrary, one goes back in time and happily remembers the fresh faced wicket keeper coming back to the dressing room after batting for almost an hour in his debut Test Match against England at Trent Bridge in 2002.
How many debutants have shown such temperament?
Even Nasser Hussain, the English Captain could not save himself from having a giggle at the expense of Patel, the youngest wicketkeeper in the history of Test matches. The demeanour of Patel was akin to that of a school going boy, naïve and gentle, probably raising the curiosity levels of the opposition related to his actual age.
The nostalgic element associated with him is even more special, as Patel’s diminutive figure could always be identified alongside some of the greats of International Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble in some of the iconic overseas tours. He was a member of the 2003 World Cup squad, though he did not feature even in a single match but he was definitely a tiny part of India’s glorious journey in that wonderful tournament. Only a fleeting look at him was enough to infuse real inspiration in any one aspiring to wear Indian colours.
At a time when India was looking for a decent wicket keeper batsman, Parthiv Patel did his job well as a wicket keeper and batsman. But, constant mistakes behind the stumps led to his ouster from the national side. Then, the emergence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni potentially closed all doors for any aspiring wicket keeper in India.
The eventual tally of 25 Test Matches and 38 One Day Internationals fails to do justice to his abilities as an extremely talented wicket-keeper batsman; there were frailties in his game but he possessed the mettle to shine at the highest stage.
He scored 934 runs in Tests with a useful average of 31.13. But, more importantly, those runs were invariably scored in critical situations for India.
It can be said that his under par wicket keeping skills overshadowed his utility as a batsman. He looked classy as a batsman even while playing a Test Match against England at Mohali in 2016 after having missed 83 matches. Though, his quick fire 67 not out wasn’t enough to guarantee a return to the Indian side as by that time Wriddhiman Saha had shown enough potential to become the first choice keeper.
As a more resourceful player in the domestic scene, he played 194 first-class games and amassed no fewer than 1,1240 runs at an average of 43.4. The scenes of Patel being hoisted in the air after he had played a valiant knock in the Ranji Trophy Final in 2017 was the apogee of Patel’s long and diverse career. He has undoubtedly been the face of Gujarat Cricket for more than a decade, and his gutsy innings of 143 against Mumbai in the Finals is a rare gem in the casket of Indian First-Class Cricket History.
As the curtains fall on the career of Parthiv Patel, it’s mind boggling to even imagine that he debuted before Mahendra Singh Dhoni and retired after he had finished plying his trade in International Cricket.
There are many reasons to remember Parthiv Patel . One can easily recount his dominant 62 against Brett Lee and others at Sydney batting alongside Tendulkar to take India to their highest total in Tests. In his third consecutive overseas tour against Pakistan in 2004, he scored an enterprising half- century in a losing cause in Lahore before being entrusted with the responsibility of opening the batting at Rawalpindi.
It would be unfair and cruel to remember him as a player who made multiple comebacks but could not really win the confidence of selectors to essay the role of a wicket keeper for a prolonged period of time.
Let’s just try to remember him as an efficacious character who faced some of the best bowlers like Mc Grath, Warne , Akhtar and Brett Lee at the International Level and also played useful knocks in the IPL. But, we also have the choice of remembering a humble man who donned the Indian jersey at an age when one isn’t old enough to get a driving license and never had a violent outburst on a Cricket Field.
The Gujarat gloves man always showed remarkable resilience and spirit as a Cricketer that were far beyond his age. This in itself warrants tremendous respect for the lion hearted and tenacious wicket keeper.
Congratulations on a kaleidoscopic career Parthiv Patel.