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Axar effortlessly fills Jadeja void in India's spin attack

February 26, 2021 11:23 IST
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Axar Patel credits close friends, family for helping him tackle tough phase while out of India squad.

IMAGE: Axar Patel credits close friends, family for helping him tackle tough phase while out of India squad. Photograph: BCCI

Ravindra Jadeja has had little competition for his spot as India's preferred spin all-rounder over the last seven years but that may have changed following Axar Patel's match-winning display in the third Test against England in Ahmedabad.

With Jadeja recovering from a thumb injury, Patel was called up to assist spin spearhead Ravichandran Ashwin in the four-Test series against Joe Root's men.

 

Patel missed the series opener with a knee injury but impressed in the second match, claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in his debut Test in Chennai.

The 27-year-old followed that with a match haul of 11-70 on a dustbowl in Ahmedabad where India triumphed inside two days in the pink-ball Test on Thursday.

India captain Virat Kohli said Patel had filled in seamlessly for 'Jaddu'.

"When Jaddu got injured, I'm sure a lot of people (in the opposition) must have been relieved," Kohli said after their 10-wicket victory.

"But then this guy comes in, bowls probably faster than Jaddu, from a greater height.

"It's impossible to sweep him, it's impossible to defend him all day. For Axar to come in and do this is outstanding."

While spinners from both sides feasted on wickets on the turning track, Patel troubled batsmen with sharp turn but got most of the victims with a skidding straight delivery.

Patel knows he is yet to match one aspect of Jadeja's all-round game after managing 12 runs in three innings.

"Wickets are coming, so nobody is pointing it out at the moment but I know that if I can't score with the bat in the next few games, people would start criticising me," Patel said after collecting player-of-the-match award.

"But at least I'm contributing with the ball, and I'm positive about it." 

Axar had made his international debut in 2014 but played his first match in the longest format of the game when India locked horns with England in the second Test. The all-rounder last played a T20I in 2018 and have been out of the white ball set up since then.

"When I was out of Team India for three years, I used to think about how can I work on my game to improve my bowling and batting. Many friends continued to ask why I wasn't in the team when I was performing consistently in the IPL and for India A, so these questions were in my mind," Axar told Hardik in a video posted on Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) website.

"But I knew that I need to wait for the right time and give my 100 per cent whenever I get a chance. My friends and family have helped me a lot in the past 2-3 years, and you (Hardik) are also one of them. I learned a lot on how to tackle the tough phase, so I credit them for supporting them during my tough time," he added.

Axar had a dream debut in the second Test where he picked a five-wicket haul. The all-rounder then scalped six and five wickets respectively in the first and second innings of the day-night Test

"Everyone has me that is Test cricket easy but when you even miss a full toss you get to that playing Test cricket isn't that easy. I think it's all about confidence," said Axar.

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