Ajaz Patel reflects on his historic 10-wicket haul against India, a feat that puts him in an illustrious club of three, alongside Jim Laker and Anil Kumble.
New Zealand’s ongoing tour of India is turning out to be a special one for Ajaz Patel.
In the first Test in Kanpur, he was part of a dramatic rearguard effort alongside Rachin Ravindra, the duo holding off India for eight overs to help his emerge with a draw, with Ajaz seeing off 23 deliveries.
Plaudits came his way for that excellent knock, but it was in the second Test in Mumbai that he really left his mark. On Saturday, Ajaz became only the third player in history to take all ten wickets in a Test innings. He returned a remarkable 10 for 119.
That put him in an illustrious club, alongside England legend Jim Laker and India stalwart Anil Kumble. Ajaz, however, is the only one of the three to achieve the feat away from home.
Ajaz made his Test debut in 2018, against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, and has since played 10 further Tests, including the ongoing encounter in Mumbai. There have been bursts of wickets since, but not as many as he’d have liked – before the Mumbai Test, he had taken 29 at an average of 32.48.
On Saturday, they came in a flurry. His average improved significantly – it sits at 28.10 currently – and he is now the toast of the game. The luminaries of the sport have sought him out and lauded him, but it was the praise from Kumble that had Ajaz grinning from ear to ear.
“I remember his 10-for,” Ajaz said after the day’s play. “I have seen highlights of that game plenty of times. It’s a very illustrious group to be a part of, it’s great to see his message and his kind words. Humbled and fortunate to be in that company."
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Ajaz admitted there were nerves when Mohammed Siraj skied him for what would be the 10th wicket. Ravindra was stationed under the ball, and the wobble on it had Ajaz worried.
"It was a nervous time. We backed Rachin to take it, but the ball wobbled and we were all nervous,” he said. "I told Neil Wagner, during drinks, that I was more nervous now than I was all game. We don't have these moments as cricketers often.”
Perhaps fittingly, Ajaz achieved the feat in Mumbai. The city has always been special for Ajaz – it’s where he was born, and he called it home till his family moved to New Zealand when he was eight. He still has family there.
"Honestly, it's surreal, and to be able to do that in my career is pretty special,” he said. “The stars have aligned for me to do it in Mumbai.
“After I came off the field, things happened too quickly. These things don't sink in until later. It's brilliant for me, my family and my wife. You spend a lot of time away from home as a cricketer, and I'm just grateful to God for this occasion.”
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