Maybe you had only seen Parthiv Patel play in the IPL. Maybe you had some memory of him in that Little Hearts’ TV commercial with Syed Kirmani. Maybe you saw him save a Test on debut in England.
Or Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’d forgotten all about Parthiv. Maybe all you know of him are from those silly jokes online. Maybe you thought he was making his debut in Mohali.
Parthiv made his debut in the summer of 2002. Before Mohali, he played his last Test in the summer of 2008. And here he is, in the winter of his career, pushing 32. He even has a beard but when that smile breaks through, he pushes back all those years, he’s 17 again. It’s Trent Bridge all over again. He saved a Test with his bat then. Today, he won a Test with his bat.
That smile. As if the years in between didn’t happen. As if Dhoni didn’t happen.
Parthiv Patel is back. He was back on November 27. Bat in hand, battle in mind. He was there after Murali Vijay fell in the 16th over. He was there for 26 overs, 115 minutes, 42 runs, goodbye new ball.
He was back on November 29. After Murali Vijay fell in the second over. He was there for 20 overs, 114 minutes, 67 runs, 54 balls, goodbye England.
Parthiv Patel kept wickets for 184.1 overs. Then he opened the batting. Twice.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan had lost nine wickets against New Zealand in a session, the post-tea session. India had lost Murali Vijay before tea. James Anderson was bowling with some of that old fire, Chris Woakes was in too. The target was 103. Would India do a Pakistan and lose 9 for 71?
Parthiv Patel slashed, cut, scooped, even drove, 11 fours, a six, he sealed and WhatsApped the match to India. Just like that.
England hardly got to ponder, "stranger things have happened". Stokes was taken off, Batty was on, that’s how lost England were.
Patel finished it with a four. It was his moment. Inside out, through covers, over the ropes, across the line India was. Patel’s chip was symbolic of this win, it was an unglamorous team effort. One that may just make it to Parthiv Patel’s untold story when it’s told behind closed doors amongst close friends.
He was in whites not in blue. It was a four, not a six. It was the third Test of a five Test series not a World Cup final. He wasn’t even the back-up keeper through most of the Dhoni years.
Is that why Parthiv Patel’s comeback story needs to be toasted some more? Where and how did he come into the picture? What were the hard yards, hard runs he scored?
Those nameless domestic seasons he played and won? How he led Gujarat to their first Vijay Hazare trophy? Those 339 runs in Mumbai Indians’ championship finish?
There were also four catches and one stumping. Of all, Jonny Bairstow’s catch stood out; it was way too low but then so was Patel. Not many keepers would’ve caught that.
And somewhere there is the hope for India’s wicketkeepers who’ve played on, behind the scenes, through the Dhoni years, filling in when there’s the odd call up for the odd series.
There’s something unique to each one’s game, hanging in is the key. Here’s to you, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, NamanOjha.
And you Mr Parthiv Patel.
Even when you’re not playing for India, we know you’re out there, doing your thing. It could be Gujarat or India Green or Mumbai Indians or Rajasthan Cricket Association President's XI or Royal Challengers Bangalore or Sunrisers Hyderabad.
No matter what, we’ll always have Mohali. No matter what, we’ll always have Trent Bridge.
(Note: From August 2, 2002, when Parthiv Patel made his Test debut, not one cricketer from either India or England is currently playing international cricket. From India, only Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra have not retired.)