Axar Patel can now hold his ground as an undeclared all-rounders fight keeps Indian selectors intrigued. There's old warhorse Ravichandran Ashwin, his long-time rival and partner in crime, Ravindra Jadeja, and the young turk in Patel -- spinners with proud batting skills. Then, there's Hardik Pandya, the pace-bowling all-rounder. (More Cricket News)
All of them have been making their claims with veritable performances, with both bat and ball. But for Patel, the youngest of the lot, it has been a very good year. In 2021, he has so far claimed 36 wickets in five Test matches, including five fifers and one 10-wicket haul. He is fourth in the list of highest wicket-takers this calendar year, behind Ashwin (51 in eight matches) and the Pakistani duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi (44 in nine) and Hasan Ali (39 in eight).
"Actually, this has been my dream year you can say. The way I bowled in England series and now how the New Zealand series panned out, in between, there was IPL so I can say that this has really been a good year for me personally," Axar said after the third day's play of the second Test against the Kiwis in Mumbai.
Patel hit an entertaining 41 off 26 balls as India declared their second innings at 276/7 on Sunday. Chasing a target of 540 runs, the Kiwis were 140/5 at the close of play on Day 3. A win is a certainty for India at Wankhede Stadium, their fortress. Patel scored a half-century (52 off 128) in the first innings.
"My endeavour is to keep improving and look at areas where I need to get better. All the hardwork that I have put in all these years have finally yielded results this year," the 27-year-old said, adding "the batting coach (Vicky Rathour) and team management has faith in my batting abilities, and they have always told me that 'you can do it'."
Patel added that earlier he couldn't convert the chances, but "this time when I got chances, I was able to convert."
Patel, who made his Test debut in February earlier this year, entered the Mumbai Test with 86 runs with an average of 17.20, but the two knocks in Mumbai have helped improve his confidence and also figures. He now has 179 at 29.83, with one fifty. And it's helping the team's cause as India's top middle-order continues to mire in uncertainties.
"My batting is benefitting my team and if you see that myself, Jaddu and Ash bhai play as all-rounders, it releases a bit of pressure on our batters, so it's a good sign. As long as I keep contributing it's good for both me and my team," Patel added.
When the national selectors meet to select India's squad for the South Africa tour, Patel's name will be up for discussion.