Ajaz Patel, from a fellow spinner to cricket folklore
Calcutta: Ajaz Patel, who became only the third spinner in trial cricket history to claim 10 wickets in a set, is no stretch of the imagination – a Jim Laker or an Anil Kumble. The two predecessors, although different types of spinners, were at their peak when they won the feat away from 43 years.
Patel, at 33, has only 10 tests behind him and frankly, it’s not Daniel Vettori. When he and Rachin Ravindra, the two players of Indian descent held on with their sticks during the final hour of the Kanpur test to thwart India, there was a joke on social media that if even the Kiwi spinners had played as well as they had hit – it would have made even competition.
In less than a week, the bearded spinner with a ready smile and a love for his Mumbai roots, wreaked havoc against a near-full-strength Indian stick – coming close with a hat-trick at his six wickets on the second day to finish with numbers 47.5 -12-119-10. There is a legitimate start to his leg ahead of skipper Virat Kohli’s sacking on Friday, but history ultimately ignores that.
Patel’s feat, in cricket logic, has special significance as neither Laker nor Kumble hit the benchmark in the opening innings – a fact that did not go unnoticed by the highest wicket-taker Indian. Welcome to #AjazPatel # Perfect10 Well done! A special effort to achieve this on Days 1 and 2 of a test match. #INDvzNZ, ” Kumble tweeted.
What was the mantra behind Patel’s success? On the one hand, the left arm spinner’s patience was admirable as he needed 47.5 overs to go through the Indian batting lineup that beat for 109.5 overs. He played in four spells of 24-10-57-4, 5-0-16-0, 6-0-16-2 and 12.5-2-30-4 – his fourth spell on the second day of the test being the most devastating.
He didn’t hate stealing the ball and kept a tight line and length. He was hit fairly easily by Mayank Agarwal on day one as the Indian opener aimed at him, but the New Zealander who played for Auckland came back in force to claim two more wickets, sidelining Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli.
All of Patel’s 10 wickets came from Tata End at Wankhede and on Friday he threw 24 overs unchanged from that end and after securing four wickets substitute skipper Tom Latham persisted with him on the other side.
Back on Saturday he was on a hat-trick in his 30th as he won two wickets on successive balls on his first on day two, trapping overnight batsman Wriddhiman Saha lbw for 27 and throwing the first ball of Ravi Ashwin with one that was spinning big and hit the stump. Axar Patel survived the treble but became his eighth victim.
After claiming four wickets on Friday, Patel said it was a “special feeling” to be successful at Wankhede. He had no idea that immortality would beckon him less than 24 hours later. It’s a shame the Kiwis have their backs to the wall after being dismissed for 62 in their first innings, but the second test at Wankhede might be remembered as “Patel’s test”.