With seven wickets in two games for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Patel is IPL-2021’s highest wicket-taker so far, and the go-to-man for skipper Virat Kohli. Returning to the RCB colours after his maiden stint with them back in 2012, he started off the tournament on a sensational note, taking five for 27 – the first five-for against the Mumbai Indians in IPL history – to bowl his team to a narrow two-wicket win.
Patel’s deadly concoction of cutters and slower ones left one of the most dreaded batting sides in the IPL completely bamboozled in the slog, when MI’s batsmen are most dangerous.
Yes, Harshal. That fifer against MI was certainly a knockout punch 😉 👊#PlayBold #WeAreChallengers #IPL2021 https://t.co/hKg7NTUxrO
— Royal Challengers Bangalore (@RCBTweets) 1618201967000
On Wednesday night, he took two for 25 to again play a significant role in his team’s six-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. Starting the final over with SRH needing 16, Patel conceded a waist-high no ball which was smacked by Rashid Khan for a four, but bounced back superbly, conceding just two runs off his next three balls to seal RCB’s second win on the trot. Again, it was the cutters and the slower ones which sealed SRH’s fate.
So impressive has Patel been that RCB have been forced to keep even India pacer Navdeep Saini on the sidelines to make space for him. In him, Kohli seems to have finally found a death overs specialist the team so desperately lacked. What makes Patel’s show more praiseworthy it has come after an ankle injury forced him to miss all domestic cricket last season, leaving him starved of match practice.
Just ONE run off the last over. Fifer and an economy of 6️⃣.8️⃣. You’re a 🌟, Harshal! 👏🏻 👏🏻 #PlayBold… https://t.co/ddLGKtCnSn
— Royal Challengers Bangalore (@RCBTweets) 1617983651000
With his brilliant skills, Patel has turned around his fortunes, which seemed to be dipping in recent years. When his name was called out during the 2018 auction, there was little or no interest from most franchisees. Delhi Capitals were the first and only bidders for the all-rounder at Rs 20 lakh.
Over the next three seasons, Patel played 12 matches for the Delhi-based franchise, claiming as many wickets and was expensive (Average economy 9.36). However, he was eager for more.
“During the 2018 IPL auction, not many people showed and that struck me. I took it as an insult within myself because I wanted to become a player who was a match-winner and had a lot of value. I realised that if I work on my batting and people start having faith in my batting then I can become a valuable player,” he said after his heroics against MI.
Before this IPL, he had 51 wickets in 49 matches, as his stocks as a medium-pacer began to dip. It meant he featured in 18 matches of five seasons. Given the brutal format of the league, Patel found himself in and out of the team. He admitted to that affecting his mind. “In the preceding years of the IPL, I’ve had massive performance anxieties because even if you have one bad game you are the fifth bowler you know you are going to get dropped.”
The struggle to survive, though, has been a part of Patel’s life since his early years in cricket. He was a part of India’s under-19 team which played the Colts’ World Cup in 2010, but unlike many from that batch who went on to play for India, he couldn’t even make it to India A, despite consistent performances in domestic cricket over the years.
He played for the Gujarat under-19 team, but had to soon shift to Haryana as his state wasn’t giving him a Ranji berth. With eight-wicket hauls in an innings, both in the quarterfinals (vs Karnataka) and the semis (Rajasthan), Patel proved his worth to Haryana. “He’s a hardworking man. He knows his mind, his game, drills, and does them diligently, apart from practicing with the team. Cricket is his priority and for this he has made innumerable sacrifices,” former Haryana Cricket Association secretary Anirudh Chaudhary, also an ex-BCCI treasurer, told TOI on Thursday.
“His biggest plus point is that he is focused on his work ethics. He knows which areas he’s working on, what his limitations are, and in a match situation, he will implement only those things on which he’s worked on. He bowls according to the wicket. He’s an under-rated batsman. In the 2019-20 season Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he was our top run-scorer (374 runs & 19 wickets in 12 games). He should be promoted up in the batting order and played as an all-rounder,” said Ashwini Kumar, former Haryana coach, and director of coaching at HCA.
“He reminds me of our state’s great spinner, the late Rajinder Goel, who, despite performing consistently in domestic cricket, he was never given a look-in by the selectors. Like Goel, he used to feel a bit bad, but never thought of quitting the game. However, a good show in this IPL might open the doors of national selection for him, like it did in the case of Rahul Tewatia, who too is from Haryana,” felt Kumar.
In the last Ranji Trophy in the 2019-20 season, Patel took 52 wickets in nine [email protected] to break Goel’s mark for most wickets in a Ranji edition for Haryana.