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Still a long way to go for me, says Smit Patel

Last updated on: August 30, 2012 11:05 IST

'Feels very good that we have got so much importance'

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Smit Patel rose to the occasion in some style. The 19-year-old wicketkeeper played an instrumental role in helping India win the under-19 World Cup with a crucial unbeaten half-century (62) against Australia in the final.

He and captain Unmukt Chand, who scored 111 not out, took India home with some matured batting after the loss of a few quick wickets in the middle overs had given the visitors some anxious moments.

But when you talk to the Gujarat youngster about the triumph, there is no over-excitement despite the hype all around him. Instead, there is hunger and eagerness to keep learning and take his game to the next level.

Smit has not had things easy, having had to stay away from his parents, who are in the United States, for the last three years, looking after the family business. Also, there was also not much to write about his game till the under-19 age group, when he put his head down and focused on the task on hand and started catching everyone's attention.

But he also realises that his real journey to make a name in the game starts now and he cannot rest on his laurels at the junior level.

Patel spoke with Harish Kotian after returning from Australia with the under-19 World Cup. Check out the story of his life thus far and plans for the future.

How does it feel to get so much attention after winning the World Cup?

I am feeling very good that we have got so much importance and coverage. It feels special, because it is the result of the success that we achieved after putting in so much hard work over the last few months.

Your preparation for the World Cup was quite interesting. You had a boot camp in Mysore, something unusual in Indian cricket. How did it help you?

At the boot camp, we did a lot of activities, which involved a lot of team-work. It was more of a refreshing camp so that our state of mind was relaxed and normal heading into a big tournament like the World Cup.

There were activities where you needed your team-mates to help you and it was all based on co-ordination between us. We also did mountain rappelling which helped us understand pressure, because when you are climbing down you are constantly under pressure and you have to do everything correctly as even one mistake can cause you to lose balance. That helped us understand that if our process is correct then automatically the results will take care of itself. So that activity helped us think correctly under pressure. That ways we did three or four activities which helped us develop mentally and helped a lot during the World Cup.

We also had a lot of discussions at the National Cricket Academy [NCA] in Bangalore with Yuvraj Singh. We also spoke a lot to Sachin Sir [Tendulkar]. He spoke to us about handling pressure and performing on the big stage, so we got to learn a lot from him.

We didn't try to do anything different. We just wanted to keep our game as simple as possible, but the main thing was that we managed to develop our mental areas.

Image: Smit Patel
Photographs: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

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'We believed in our abilities and were always positive'

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How did you work on the mental side of your game?

We always used to talk positively and never thought this is not possible or we cannot do this. Even when talking to each other we were always positive. We never thought what if we got out or what if we lost; we always believed that we will win every match and also that we will win the World Cup. We believed in our abilities and would always think that we are the best team in the world and we can beat any team that comes up against us.

But despite all this mental development, how was the mood in the Indian camp when you lost the first match to the West Indies?

The mood was no different, because we put in a great effort in that match against the West Indies. The conditions were good for fast bowlers in the morning and despite that I think we managed to post a fighting total. So we didn't regret later that we didn't put in a good effort or we didn't give them a fight.

We played quite well in that match. All our bowlers did a good job and were backed very well by all the fielders. So that is why we never came from the match feeling that we didn't give our best. Our thinking was clear that we will not focus on the result but only think about giving our best at all times. Our coach Bharat Arun also applauded the way we played in that match, because he also believes that we should focus on the effort and not on the result. Our mindset was the same in all the matches, whether it was the final, semi-final or a group match. For us, we took it as another cricket match.

The only difference was that you add just few words to it like World Cup final or semi-final. So we always prepared the same way for all the games and gave them equal importance and gave our best in all of them.

Image: Smit Patel
Photographs: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

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'We still have to learn so much and there is a long way to go'

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Did your parents support you choosing cricket ahead of academics?

Yes, my parents supported me a lot. My dad also played cricket during his school days and he was also a wicketkeeper-batsman like me. When I was small he used to bowl at me non-stop for hours and hours despite getting tired. He has always helped and motivated me a lot. My family has sacrificed so much for me and I don't know if I will be able to repay them ever. I have always got so much support from my family and friends.

It was difficult at the start and I struggled a lot during my under-15 days. I performed okay in that age group, it was not that good. But a year later I performed well in the under-16. In the under-19, again, my performance was not up to the mark and I was dropped from the team. And that day when I was not picked I made a promise to myself that I will work very hard; I will work day and night and do everything to become a good cricketer.

My parents moved to USA around three years back and I stayed in India mainly because I wanted to pursue my cricketing career. Then I sat back and told myself that if I have decided to take up cricket then I should work hard and do it with full commitment. After that I worked hard towards my goal and just focused on my dream of playing cricket.

My parents stay in Alabama and look after our gas station business there, while I stay here with my sister Zina.

Were your parents comfortable with you staying away from them? Didn't they ask you to come to live with them in the US?

They never forced me to do anything. They said that if I wanted to take up cricket then they would support me. They gave me everything possible to ensure that I never faced any problems and at the same time I also kept my studies going. I am doing first year in engineering and my college administration also supported me a lot.

My mom watched all the matches of the World Cup. It used to start at 7pm at their time in the US and she used to watch the full match till around 3pm. I would call her once the match got over and she would sleep only after talking to me.

Your real journey in the cricketing world starts now. How do you look at the future?

Yes, we have just taken a few steps in the world of cricket. We still have to learn so much and there is a long way to go.

I am looking to do well in the upcoming domestic season for Gujarat. I am not thinking too ahead in the future and just looking to be in the present and focus on doing well in every match as and when it comes.


Image: Smit Patel
Photographs: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Tags: USA , US , Zina , India , Alabama

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