After smashing a 36-year state record by taking 52 wickets in nine matches during the Ranji season, Haryana skipper Harshal Patel is hoping it will get him more appearances if the IPL is held. The 29-year-old, who had to exit IPL 2019 prematurely due to a hand fracture, admits he never got the opportunities he may have deserved, but says he knows there’s more to life than cricket.
“I do realise that I was not very consistent at times. So if you look at the spell of 24 balls, I may have given a couple of loose balls here and there and that has hurt my economy. So when you look at only numbers it shows that I have been expensive,” he said.
“But I have also been able to get wickets at crucial stages and to put this in perspective, you will get to know that I have done reasonably well,” Patel said.
Patel led the Haryana team for the first time in the 2019-20 season and broke left-arm spinner Rajinder Goel’s 36-year-old record for the most wickets in a season for the team. The all-rounder was also the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20.
The Ahmedabad-born cricketer also made 292 runs at an average of 22.46, batting mostly at No. 8 in the Ranji season. In T20s, Patel opened and scored 374 runs at an average of 31.17 in 12 games in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
“I don’t want to be called an all-rounder just for the sake of it. My goal is to contribute more and more value to the team. In IPL, I have never got an opportunity to bat. I have got two proper innings where I have done reasonably well,” he said.
“I would like to get more opportunities with the bat. It’s always an advantage for the team because if you have a player who can bat at number 7 and bowl four overs, it adds a lot to the combination. In that case, you have one player doing the job of two,” Patel said.
Patel’s been there for nine seasons of the IPL but has played more than five games in just two seasons.
“In these two seasons (2012 and 2015) my economy was fantastic. In 2012 it was 8.29 and in 2015 it was 7.48,” he said.
Moving to Haryana
The allrounder made his List A debut for Gujarat in the 2008-09 Vinoo Mankad Trophy. After he took 23 wickets at an impressive average of 11, he was picked for India’s Under-19 World Cup squad to go to New Zealand. An IPL contract with Mumbai Indians followed.
Despite not having a mentor, Patel said he took the decision of moving to Haryana in 2011-12.
“Anirudh Chaudhary was our manager in U-19 WC and he asked me to play for Haryana as Gujarat had many bowlers at that time. I finished my debut season with 28 wickets with two 8-fors in the quarter-final and semi-final. Ever since I am a part of the Haryana team which awarded me with captaincy last season,” he said.
Despite some impressive performances, a call to Team India has eluded him. But Patel admits having no coach or mentor hasn’t helped.
“I failed to realise what my weaknesses and strengths are. I hopped from one idea to another to improve my game. I never stuck to one thing,” he said.
“That’s the lapse I did which hit my game. I lacked that consistency in thoughts and it took me a while to learn that,” Patel said.
The fast bowler said he felt that it also hurt not having someone influential to hype him up.
“It does make a difference if you have somebody hyping you up. People have likings and dislikings and if you have somebody who is influential and talks about you at different places, it does make a good case for you.
“But I don’t have that so I don’t think about it. Whatever I have is my game and a drive to get better. If people will notice what I have to offer, things will definitely happen,” he said.
The fast bowler said he spent most of the lockdown reading self-help books and philosophy. Asked about the ban on the use of saliva, Patel said it’s an ingrained thing for bowlers.
“There will be four to five people every day in the match referee’s room because they put saliva on the ball. It’s a behavioural change and will be difficult to change,” he said.
Patel said he’s had a career with several ups and downs but never believed in competing with anybody else.
“I often ask myself if I am competent enough to play this level of the game. Each one of us has a different way of dealing with it and it’s definitely a battle. We all face the pressure and if you have a decent support system of your family, friends or people around you, you find a solution. It’s all about looking at life from a zoomed-out perspective,” he said.
Patel said he has something he tells himself everytime he feels like he’s stuck. “Cricket is just 10 or 15 years of your life, you will probably retire after 35 of 36. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? You can never allow it to become your entire life,” he said.