Home » Cricket Home » News » India vs England: Axar Patel, Home Ground & the Art of Bowling Quick

India vs England: Axar Patel, Home Ground & the Art of Bowling Quick

When Axar Patel was just beginning to make a name for himself in the bright lights, whether with India or in the Indian Premier League, it was a major event in the town of Nadiad, 60 kilometres from Ahmedabad, where this Patel family is from.

  • Anand Vasu
  • Updated: February 25, 2021, 11:40 AM IST
India vs England: Axar Patel, Home Ground & the Art of Bowling Quick

When Axar Patel was just beginning to make a name for himself in the bright lights, whether with India or in the Indian Premier League, it was a major event in the town of Nadiad, 60 kilometres from Ahmedabad, where this Patel family is from.

ALSO READ – India vs England: Sanjay Manjrekar Expresses Opinion About Controversial Umpiring Decisions

Axar’s brother, without fail, put up a giant screen in a public area, so that extended friends and family could watch the performance of one of their own. On Monday, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Axar was on the biggest screen in cricket, in the biggest venue in the sport, picking up 6 for 38 as he decimated England.

The family would have given anything to travel to the ground to watch Axar play his first Test at Motera, but Covid-19 restrictions meant they decided to stay put and enjoy the action from the safety of home. Previously, Axar had played one Ranji Trophy match at the venue, and one One-Day International, so it was not as though this was a patch of cricketing turf that he had already made the venue his own.

“There wasn’t really any home advantage in that respect because it’s a new stadium, new pitch and we were playing a match here after more than five years,” the softspoken Axar would say soon after the first day’s play. “But the fact that the Gujarati crowd was cheering us in local language made me feel the home advantage. Otherwise it was equal for both teams.”

What was unequal was the manner in which the two different teams approached the cricket, once more. It has long been said by the best coaches that cricket is about problem solving. For batsmen and bowlers alike, the game is not playing one particular way. Rather, it is about seeing what works best for you against any given opposition in any conditions.

Here the conditions were unknown to all. Typically, in Day-Night Test matches, it is the fast bowlers who get the most assistance. But, in Ahmedabad, the grass cover on the pitch was steadily removed in the days leading up to the Test and when play began the pitch wore a distinctly dry look.

The major point of different between the two teams came in their respective assessment of the conditions. England went with three quick bowlers, India with two frontline spinners and the option of more slow bowling from Washington Sundar, who would also shore up the lower order with bat.

If the problem was getting into the minds of batsmen and making the most of conditions, the tall Axar did that by playing with the straight ball. Any left-arm spinner worth his salt will have the delivery that goes on with the arm, but Axar used that weapon to dramatic effect on the day. Bowling from close to the stumps, using his height and point of release to good effect, Axar realised quickly that natural variation and not flight and dip were going to be his greatest allies.

And it is not as though this was a flash that came to him out of the blue. Being tall and lanky, Axar had found it difficult to impart flight on the ball and get it to dip enough to trouble batsmen. This is when the work he did with coaches at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore helped.

“When I went to NCA early on, I learnt a lot from Venkat sir (M. Venkatramana). Since I used to bowl fast as a kid, I tend to bowl slightly quicker. I turned into a spin bowler once I had a bit of a knee problem. I think that’s what has helped me bowl arm balls better.” Venkataramana may have played only one Test and one One-Day International for India, but he was a regular on the domestic circuit, picking up 247 first-class wickets along the way. That experience helped steer Axar in the right direction.

If playing with the elevation of the ball was not a serious option for a bowler of Axar’s style, there had to be something else he could do. In this case, it was funnelling the ball regularly into a corridor that would threaten batsmen, especially those who did not either trust their defence fully or have means to counter-attack an accurate bowler.

ALSO READ – India vs England: WATCH – Virat Kohli Imitates Steve Smith’s Batting, Jacques Kallis’ Bowling

With the pink ball having an extra coat of lacquer to help it retain shine and colour, there was a genuine chance that it would skid on and go through straight when the ball landed on leader rather than seam. Axar made the most of this by attacking the stumps. “Since the ball was skidding, you prefer bowling wicket-to-wicket because if the batsman tends to play on the backfoot, you have a good chance of getting an lbw or bowled,” said Axar. “I was discussing the same with Ash that the ball wasn’t turning a lot so we planned to bowl wicket-to-wicket.”

Wicket to wicket was the winning formula for Axar, and sure enough, the local boy was the one who popped up the most on the giant screen in the shiny new stadium in his home ground.



Team Rankings

RankTeamPointsRating
1 New Zealand 3198 118
2 Australia 3028 116
3 India 3085 114
4 England 4326 106
5 South Africa 2499 96
FULL Ranking
RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 5405 123
2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
FULL Ranking
RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 6877 275
2 Australia 6800 272
3 India 10186 268
4 Pakistan 7516 259
5 South Africa 5047 252
FULL Ranking