Axar Patel has grown to become an indispensable part of India’s Test set-up in a short span of time
Axar Patel has grown to become an indispensable part of India’s Test set-up in a short span of time. Axar Patel has taken 48 wickets and scored 407 runs from 10 Tests.
Axar Patel is slowly becoming an integral part of India’s Test team, especially in home conditions. The 29-year-old player from Anand in Gujarat, is a relatively new entrant to India’s spin bowling department as far as red-ball cricket is concerned.
Having made his international debut for India as a 20-year-old in ODIs in 2014 on the back of notable performances in the domestic circuit as well in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Axar had to wait for his opportunity to represent India in Tests for a considerable period of time. This was due to heavy competition within the Indian team for the lead spinner’s role.
India had the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, a like-for-like player to Axar Patel in all sorts and the champion off-spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin. In short, both the spin twins were almost irreplaceable and found great success as a pair in the 5-day format for India.
But the break came for Axar Patel in Tests due to an unfortunate injury to Ravindra Jadeja ahead of India’s home series against England in early 2021. However, this proved to be a blessing in disguise for Axar and India. The men in blue had not only found a long-term replacement for Ravindra Jadeja in this format, but also made the present Test team more potent than ever before with the presence of Axar.
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Match-winning contributions with the ball in Anthony de Mello Trophy 2021 set him apart
For the unversed, to set things in perspective, Axar Patel has only played 10 Tests so far but the impact he has created in the two-year period in Tests is nothing short of extraordinary. It is fair to say that Axar Patel has grown leaps and bounds as an international cricketer since making his dream debut in what was an unforgettable home Test series against England.
The left-arm spinner was clearly the breakout star for India where he scalped a whopping 27 wickets in 3 Tests at an average of 10.59 and playing a huge role in India’s 3-1 triumph. His presence made sure that India didn’t miss the services of Ravindra Jadeja at home and over time he ascended further to be called one of India’s primary spinners at home.
In the three Tests he played against England at home, Axar registered 4 five-wicket hauls and a 10-fer which announced his Test arrival in style. The all-rounder continued to impress in the team’s next home Test series against New Zealand where he claimed 9 wickets in 2 games. His next 5 Tests have yielded just 12 wickets for the spinner, and it is primarily because of the fact that the two lead spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja ruled the roost in those games. This gave Axar very little opportunity to continue with his wicket-taking juggernaut.
Axar was never a big turner of the cricket ball and his strength is his accuracy. He tries to keep things simple and that’s the substance of what makes him a dangerous bowler in Asian conditions. The batters seldom know which way the ball goes after pitching and this is the thing which makes him a genuine wicket-taker.
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Two match-defining half-centuries against Australia elucidate his value as batter
Being an all-rounder, a player can contribute in all the departments of the game and Axar Patel has taken his batting to the next level. He was always known to be someone who can contribute useful runs coming down the order which one has seen on multiple occasions in the IPL and whenever he represents his sides in domestic cricket.
But his recent form with the bat has been a revelation of sorts and he keeps getting better with each outing. After couple of impactful innings in white-ball cricket for the men in blue, Axar Patel delivered when it was most required in Tests.
Against the world no.1 Test team Australia, India found themselves in a spot of bother with bat on more than one occasion in the Test series. In the first Test, Axar Patel scored a vital 84 in the first innings sharing an 88-run stand with Jadeja in the process. This ensured India gaining a massive 223 run first innings lead and eventually went onto win the game.
However, his best knock yet for India came in the second Test against of Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23 in Delhi. When India were struggling at 139/7 chasing a first innings total of 263 set by Australia, Axar combined with Ashwin to not only rescue the hosts but shifting the entire balance of the game in India’s favour. His 74 helped India come one shy of Australia’s score of 263 and in the end, it was the home team that emerged victorious.
Not only does Axar Patel average a meagre 15.45 with the ball in 10 Tests taking 48 wickets, but the all-rounder also has 407 runs at a decent batting average of 31.30 in those games with three half-centuries. This makes him a must have utility player especially in the subcontinent conditions.
With him in the playing XI, India have a great deal of batting depth without compromising on the bowling front. Axar comes in at number 8 or 9 in the batting order and has more often played useful knocks for the team. In the bowling department, he is part of the spin trio along with Ashwin and Jadeja.
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