Tuning his game through the trials and tribulations of franchise and domestic cricket, Harshal Patel bore the fruits of his labour on international debut.
By no means the earmarked and fast-tracked player we see thrown onto the international arena, 30-year-old Patel has made his climb through trying and toiling.
Adjudged Player of the Match with figures of 2/25 from his four overs, the quick credited his performance to learning the lessons in spite of the rigours playing the game's relentless short format.
“All the failures I’ve had through these ten years have taught me that you need to be patient, you need to understand your game, you need to understand conditions and if there’s something that works for you, if you’ve figured a process that works for you, you need to stick to it.”
“You continue to make mistakes and you realise at some point that you have to change your mindset, you have to change the way you look at things, you have to change the way you approach things. That is something that my process of ten years in domestic cricket has taught me."
Presented his cap by former Indian fast-bowler Ajit Agarkar, Harshal showed calm on debut, sticking to the formula that has yielded his success. An exponent of slower ball variations as one of India's best death-over bowlers, Patel did damage. Daryl Mitchell, a thorn in India's side during their turbulent T20 World Cup campaign, was undone by Patel's change of pace, holing out to long-on, unable to wrangle the debutant bowling from wide of the crease.
Patel almost sent Glenn Phillips back next ball, though not to be denied, Patel claimed the right-hander as his second scalp. Again smart with his lack of pace, Phillips, miscuing a short ball dug into the slow surface, found Ruturaj Gaikwad in the deep. Leading the attack with 13 dot balls, Patel curtailed any late-innings Black Caps hitting heroics, restricting the tourists to 153. India's batters backed up Patel's work, chasing the target down in a canter.
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For Patel, the performance was far from a one-off, overnight success, but rather the culmination of years honing his bowling craft, and realising long-term goals.
“The most underrated thing (is that) people don’t talk enough about patience. I feel progress doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process. It’s a gradual process and if you want to make a change and if you want to get better at something you need to allow yourself enough time to figure that out.
“It takes a while for you to inculcate those things in your thought process.
“It’s going to take time and if you keep jumping from one place to another in your mindset that’s never going to work for you."
In the 2021 IPL, Patel was far and away the most devastating bowler. Top of the log with 32 wickets at 14.34, Patel was potent, ripping through opposition at a strike rate of just 10.56. Eight wickets clear of the next-best bowler of the tournament, Patel was a staggering 14 scalps better than the next bowler in his side, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Making the step up to the international arena, Patel stuck to the same plans that led to his selection, focusing on the unique skills only he can execute.
“Angles are a big part of my game and I use them to good effect and I think it’s another thing I realise I can add to my repertoire without trying to do too many things.
“I bowl yorkers from close to the stumps, I bowl yorkers from the corner of the crease and that has a massive impact on where the ball lands and where the batsman plays the ball.
“For me it was the ability to differentiate between my skill set and things I could not do, things that my skill set wouldn’t allow me to do, so figuring that out and making decisions on the basis of that and figuring out certain things work really well for you.
“Obviously you want to keep adding skills to your repertoire but at the same time being cognizant of the fact there are certain things that your talent won’t allow you to do.”
Patel, even with the immediate Indian success, stresses that his ultimate goal is yet to be achieved. Philosophical in his outlook, the 30-year-old wants to continue to find the peaks of his mental and physical prowess.
“I feel if you look at things in a very short frame of time then you do get frustrated, but if you look at long-term success and if you look at long-term goals and process you’re less likely to get frustrated and think this dream is escaping from me.
“My process was always driven by my internal drive to constantly get better and actualise that potential.
“I never at any moment felt that the dream was running away from me."
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