cricket

Rajat Patidar relishes ‘dream come true’ as international debut beckons

Rajat Patidar‘s journey from Indore to the Indian team has been swift. In February, he went unsold at the IPL auction. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, he picked himself up and promised to have an unforgettable year. It is this promise he has delivered on, as he finds himself on the cusp of the India cap.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Patidar told BCCI.tv of his call-up. “The IPL was the turning point for me. But I feel I have the ability to play all three formats. I am trying to focus on the processes [of the formats] differently. I want to keep myself in the present, and play to the demands of the team.”

At 27, Patidar understands selection and snub are two faces of the same coin. As much as that boring cliche goes, in Patidar’s mind, it is as simple as being able to control the controllables – and for him, that is to score runs.

A week after his IPL snub, Patidar hit twin fifties in a game Madhya Pradesh won against Gujarat. He finished the Ranji Trophy league phase with 335 runs at 83.75, with no score below 53. Those runs translated into a knockout berth for MP.

After he helped MP to the Ranji quarter-finals, came a phone call from Mike Hesson in early April, asking of his availability because Royal Challengers Bangalore needed a replacement.

Patidar was in the midst of finalising his wedding preparations in May, but it was something he happily postponed to be a part of the IPL.

Within 24 hours of the phone call, he was on the plane to Mumbai, and a few weeks down the line, he became the first uncapped Indian to hit a century in a playoff game. That knock at Eden Gardens against Lucknow Super Giants was followed by a half-century in Qualifier-2 against Rajasthan Royals.

Patidar finished his second IPL season with 333 runs at a strike rate of 152.75. It marked his coming of age. Having played for nearly seven years in relative anonymity, he was firmly in the national consciousness.

It is this form he has built on. A week after IPL ended, he was part of MP’s march to their maiden Ranji title. He made 323 runs in the knockout stages, including a century in the final; on the way, he had crossed a half-century in every knockout game.

Most recently, he struck two centuries in three first-class games against New Zealand A. It was made special even more because it was his first stint with India A. This dream run that started in February culminated with his India call-up last week. Much of this run-scoring spree is down to how he “feels”; and it is not only about technique.

“Especially if you talk about batting, but I also don’t judge myself on performance,” he had said after the Ranji final. “I need to get that batting feel – the shots are good, the balance is there, the head is in the right position. Till I don’t get that feel, I don’t feel I’m in good form. Obviously it is every batsman’s job to score runs, but for me, if I feel good about my batting, the runs come automatically.”

“He himself came up to talk to me. It was nice talking to him, he appreciated my performances and wished me well for my future”

Patidar on his interactions with India’s stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan

The feel he speaks about is something he has learnt from watching AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik from close quarters.

“Virat, AB – they were all my idols; experienced international players,” he said. “I felt a little overawed meeting them for the first time. It was a great moment to speak to them for the first time. Watching them all train and bat in the nets, I learnt a lot on how they approach their cricket.”

Fast forward to this Monday, when he had his first full training session with the senior national team. He was welcomed in a huddle by stand-in coach VVS Laxman, who underlined why he had gotten this far. Laxman is believed to have appreciated Patidar’s big-match temperament and hunger for runs. Dhawan, the captain, then spoke to Patidar about his potential.

“Legendary players, if they welcome you in the huddle, it feels motivating,” Patidar said with a smile, as he reflected on his first day in office. “It felt good, I know a lot of the guys. But this is the first time I’m playing with Shikhar [Dhawan] bhai; in fact, I had a chat with him the first time over here itself.

“I thought how it would be when I talk to him, [and] how I can talk to him, but he himself came up to talk to me. It was nice talking to him, he appreciated my performances and wished me well for my future.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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