Right pace, skidding on, bowling on a spot: Axar’s smarts

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“Is baar mauka haath se jaane nahi doonga,” ( I won’t let this opportunity go). Chintan Gaja. Gujarat Ranji player, remembers Axar Patel’s promise just before England series when news came in that Ravindra Jadeja won’t be available for all four Tests. He certainly has kept his promise; a five-for in Chennai, and now a six-for on the first-day track at his city.

There is a curious thing he does with the ball. Most left-arm spinners’ variations can be picked by the seam position. With stock ball, it tends to point towards slips, with the armer, it gets straighter. Occasionally, they all use the scrambled seam to see if the ball lands on the shiny side and skids on. However, Axar uses the scrambled seam better than most other left-armers. He can get it to spin away viciously if the pitch helps, as he got it a few times early on in his spell to seed doubts. He then uses almost a similar grip but presses the middle finger harder on the ball at release to get it to go straighter. It’s not easy to pick at all as England found out; batsmen after batsmen groped forward blindly and were hoping it would be the one that was turning away. Mistake. It would be the ram-rod straight armer that would nail them on the pad.

As much as the help from the pitch, it was his cricketing smarts that stood out. The right pace (hovering in late 80 kph), the use of the extra lacquer on the pink ball or “glare” as he calls it to get the ball to skid on, the liberal sprinkling of the arm-ball on a turner, the use of the under-cutter as the ball got older to get it to skid more, the smart use of the side-arm action to confuse the batsmen further, and the extreme discipline not to stray from what’s working.

As the day wrapped up, when the commentator Murali Kartik asked him when he would show his variations in the match, Axar quipped with a lovely smile, “I don’t think there is no need to show those variations. Uske bina hi kaam chal raha hai (it’s working without it).”

Priyank Panchal, Gujarat’s captain, explains that it’s his action that helps him to get his deliveries to skid after landing which makes him sometimes a dangerous bowler to handle. “His bowling speed is not like the ones of the general spinner. He bowls at a consistent pace and his deliveries skids after pitching which is more dangerous to handle,” Panchal told this newspaper.

Gaja stresses the accuracy trait. “He can bowl for hours at one spot. He is too confident when it comes to his accuracy. He can get his spot even with closed eyes, such has been his accuracy. During junior days he used to bowl with the new ball and still got his line right,” Gaja says. When IPL was winding down, Axar was hoping to board a flight to Australia, Gaja says, as he felt the board would be taking a jumbo squad due to pandemic. He had to wait for his chance which came with Jadeja’s injury and that’s when he promised Gaja.

Axar Patel — the family’s hero, literally

Axar knows how to keep promises, not just with team-mates but with his father too. The last wish of his beloved grandmother, who couldn’t get her dream of watching him live on television, was about his career. “She told my father, ‘I want to see Axar on television. I want to see him in a blue jersey,” Patel tells the YouTube channel Cricket Originals. “I was just 18 when she died. That day my dad told me, ‘can you wear the Indian jersey one day?’ That’s the day I started to take my game seriously.”

“Is baar mauka haath se jaane nahi doonga,” ( I won’t let this opportunity go). Chintan Gaja. Gujarat Ranji player, remembers Axar Patel’s promise just before England series when news came in that Ravindra Jadeja won’t be available for all four Tests. He certainly has kept his promise; a five-for in Chennai, and now a six-for on the first-day track at his city.

There is a curious thing he does with the ball. Most left-arm spinners’ variations can be picked by the seam position. With stock ball, it tends to point towards slips, with the armer, it gets straighter. Occasionally, they all use the scrambled seam to see if the ball lands on the shiny side and skids on. However, Axar uses the scrambled seam better than most other left-armers. He can get it to spin away viciously if the pitch helps, as he got it a few times early on in his spell to seed doubts. He then uses almost a similar grip but presses the middle finger harder on the ball at release to get it to go straighter. It’s not easy to pick at all as England found out; batsmen after batsmen groped forward blindly and were hoping it would be the one that was turning away. Mistake. It would be the ram-rod straight armer that would nail them on the pad.

As much as the help from the pitch, it was his cricketing smarts that stood out. The right pace (hovering in late 80 kph), the use of the extra lacquer on the pink ball or “glare” as he calls it to get the ball to skid on, the liberal sprinkling of the arm-ball on a turner, the use of the under-cutter as the ball got older to get it to skid more, the smart use of the side-arm action to confuse the batsmen further, and the extreme discipline not to stray from what’s working.

As the day wrapped up, when the commentator Murali Kartik asked him when he would show his variations in the match, Axar quipped with a lovely smile, “I don’t think there is no need to show those variations. Uske bina hi kaam chal raha hai (it’s working without it).”

Priyank Panchal, Gujarat’s captain, explains that it’s his action that helps him to get his deliveries to skid after landing which makes him sometimes a dangerous bowler to handle. “His bowling speed is not like the ones of the general spinner. He bowls at a consistent pace and his deliveries skids after pitching which is more dangerous to handle,” Panchal told this newspaper.

Gaja stresses the accuracy trait. “He can bowl for hours at one spot. He is too confident when it comes to his accuracy. He can get his spot even with closed eyes, such has been his accuracy. During junior days he used to bowl with the new ball and still got his line right,” Gaja says. When IPL was winding down, Axar was hoping to board a flight to Australia, Gaja says, as he felt the board would be taking a jumbo squad due to pandemic. He had to wait for his chance which came with Jadeja’s injury and that’s when he promised Gaja.

Axar knows how to keep promises, not just with team-mates but with his father too. The last wish of his beloved grandmother, who couldn’t get her dream of watching him live on television, was about his career. “She told my father, ‘I want to see Axar on television. I want to see him in a blue jersey,” Patel tells the YouTube channel Cricket Originals. “I was just 18 when she died. That day my dad told me, ‘can you wear the Indian jersey one day?’ That’s the day I started to take my game seriously.”

When his father made a miraculous recovery after a serious accident that damaged his head, Axar sent him to the US to relatives as part of the recovery process. There, the father fell in love with a dog and would constantly talk about it in the calls back home. Axar, who was afraid of dogs until then, was moved enough to get a Maltese puppy home for his father. And he named it, ‘Gucci Patel’.

Just as the press conference was about to start after his six-for, someone mentioned his dog’s name, and Axar went, “Yeh mere kuthe ka naam kaun liya?!” and a lovely smile spread on his face. Six-for, love for his dog, a happy family – Patel’s day out at the world’s largest stadium was complete.





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