In a deep voice that belies his age, Parthiv Patel has come forward to be counted yet again. As if keeping wickets for 157 overs against England wasn’t enough, Patel then went on to open the batting in the Chennai Test. When you consider the switch between innings is barely ten minutes, you can be sure that this Gujarati stumper is made of sterner stuff. Patel also opened the batting in the Mohali Test after keeping wickets for 94 overs. One can argue that he had the benefit of overnight rest there but to open yet again in the second dig, orchestrating a tricky chase was nothing short of stunning. Chasing 104 for a win, Patel gave us a glimpse of the Mumbai Indian dasher that he has turned out be – smashing 67 off just 54 balls with 11 fours and a six. That too in a Test match where the maximum run rate was a mere 3.01 runs per over.
Still, putting his hand up to captain India has come pretty much out of the blue. And even though the underage jokes have died down, and there’s a thick stubble to go with that cherubic face, captaining Gujarat is one thing, and being at the helm of the national squad quite another.
However, after just captaining Gujarat into the Ranji Trophy finals, pragmatic as ever, Patel offers his two cents, “Yes, you can say that captaining India and Gujarat are entirely different but in many ways once you captain a state side for as long as I have, you start to enjoy the challenges the job throws at you. Also after conceding a first innings’ lead to Jharkhand in the semis, we were determined to give it our all. Back in the dressing room, and you can excuse my modesty here, but I made a speech that moved not just the ten others in the team but our coach and little ol’ me as well. At that moment I knew, the time has come, to not just lead Gujarat into the finals, that too against all odds but to lead India in limited overs cricket, even it is for a limited time”.
When asked why he was volunteering for only a limited time, the Gujarat skipper, proved disarmingly honest yet again, “I have no illusions about who or what I am. I am basically a stop-gap arrangement for Indian cricket. At 32 years (he turns 32 in March this year), in spite of the fight in this dog, there is only that much time I can captain Indian cricket realistically.”
The ‘that much time’ refers to when Virat Kohli, the Test captain, is ready to take over in all formats. Again, Parthiv both agrees and disagrees, “Yes, that is for Virat Kohli to decide but in my humble opinion, he has just had a very intense Test series leading us to a mammoth 4-0 victory so a little more time to ease into the job will be ideal…ideally speaking, the Champions Trophy in England will be the right stage as Virat really enjoys the big stage but then again it is up to him and the selectors…whoever or however many they maybe…” he tapers off with a smile, tongue firmly in cheek.
When asked about MS Dhoni’s legacy, Parthiv Patel minces no words, “I don’t think I’m in a position to comment on that but this much I will say, if he was playing for Jharkhand in the semi-finals against us rather than mentoring them from the sidelines, the result could’ve been quite different…”
Come to think of it, how many players would’ve had the conviction to call it as it is. Who knows, perhaps it is Parthiv Patel’s time in the sun. Then again, we may never know.
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)