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IND vs NZ, 2nd Test: Ajaz Patel Enters Cricketing Folklore With a ‘Perfect 10’ Homecoming

New Zealand's Ajaz Patel celebrates the dismissal of India's Mohammed Siraj during the day two of their second test cricket match with India in Mumbai, India, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

New Zealand's Ajaz Patel celebrates the dismissal of India's Mohammed Siraj during the day two of their second test cricket match with India in Mumbai, India, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Ayaz Patel could not have dreamt of taking ten wickets in an innings. But he has done it, that too in the ‘City of Dreams’, to complete his perfect homecoming.

“It’s definitely emotional," Ajaz Patel had said on the eve (Wednesday) of the India vs New Zealand 2nd Test when asked about playing a Test match in Mumbai, the city he grew up before moving to New Zealand as an eight-year-old. Fast forward to Saturday and the left-arm spinner will very well be going through a myriad of emotions after becoming only the third bowler in the history of Test cricket to claim all ten wickets in a Test innings, following into the footsteps of the legendary Anil Kumble (1999) and Jim Laker (1956).

The 33-year-old, who had not bowled in first-class cricket since June before the series, was looking to play a crucial part but little did he know on day two of the 2nd Test he will etch his name in cricket history with a rarest of rarest achievements. Only the third time a bowler has claimed all ten wickets in an innings in 2438 Tests matches. The first was England offspinner Jim Laker in 1956 followed by Anil India’s Kumble in 1999. Playing only his 11th Test, Patel can very well boast of being the fastest to claim ten wickets. After the close of play on Day 1, Patel had picked up four wickets and had termed his effort as ‘This is what dreams are made of’.

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For day two, he may have to come up with something better now.

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Historic moments like this tend to align themselves really well. For Patel parents had not even seen him bowl even in New Zealand in person, and in Mumbai he had ‘various members of the family coming in on different days of the game’ and what a game for his family to pick to watch and for Patel to bowl.

It has been all about nostalgia for Patel through the series. In the first Test, it was the two Indian-origin players – Rachin Ravindra and Patel – who stonewalled the Indian bowling attack to eke out a thrilling, memorable draw at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium. And in Mumbai, Patel has his moment under the sun. For someone who had to wait for ten years to play international cricket, the wait has been worthwhile.

Patel’s parents migrated to New Zealand aiming to give themselves a better lifestyle than what they had experienced growing up. Writing about his early days in cricket in a column, Patel recalls how he ran around the cricket pitch in sneakers, when everyone else was wearing spikes and how he had to play with borrowed bats and pads, and his learnings on how to challenge adversity, be patient, and keep his faith. He describes his cricketing journey as someone ‘challenging adversity’.

Going towards something that others probably thought was unattainable, but the left-arm spinner believed he could. And when Mohammad Siraj skied one up in the air, slogging across the line, Patel was on the cusp of achieving the unattainable and how fitting it was that the catch was taken by Ravindra.

‘Welcome to the Club’-Anil Kumble Congratulates Ajaz Patel

Patience is the key for any spinner and Patel demonstrated that by delivering 47.5 overs split into three spells of 26, 14 and 11 overs on the trot.

The next highest was 22 bowled by Tim Southee. And the same patience and persistence is what made Patel tick and continue his pursuit for New Zealand international cap. Patel started off as a seamer and playing age group cricket as a left-arm seamer before he decided to switch to spin and the former Kiwi spinner Dipak Patel guided through the transition. “He (Dipak) broke down the whole action of a spinner for me, and we remoulded my action from a fast bowler to a spin bowler’s. In the space of four or five months, we broke down the whole action of a spinner, moved from my fast bowling rhythms over to spin, and started developing an action of my own,” remembers Patel

Ajaz Patel Becomes Third Bowler to Take Ten Wickets in an Innings

Then began the grind.

He first moved from Auckland Cricket to Central Districts where he would go on to spend all of his domestic cricketing career. Over the next few years Patel established himself as a key player in the setup and returned most wickets in the 2015-16, and 2016-17 Plunket Shield seasons (NZ’s domestic first-class competition). Yet, his dreams of representing New Zealand still looked a distant dream.

“From a faith perspective, for me it was always about doing the hard work, turning every stone I could turn, then leaving the rest up to destiny and whatever is best for me, whenever it’s best for me, will happen,” he writes in the column. When he finally got that call, after 10 long years, Patel hit it out of the park in Abu Dhabi in 2018 claiming seven wickets in the match including a five-for. He picked up the man-of-the-match award in a memorable NZ win.

He goes on to write in the column, “I couldn’t have dreamt at the age of 30 being selected for the Blackcaps. I couldn’t have dreamt of taking five wickets on debut, leading to a dramatic win away from home. I couldn’t have dreamt of seeing the words “Ajaz Patel – Blackcap. But here I am, the boy from Mumbai,”

Well, Ajaz Patel could not have dreamt of taking ten wickets in an innings. But he has done it, that too in the ‘City of Dreams’, to complete his perfect homecoming.

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first published:December 04, 2021, 14:18 IST