Game for a second coming

By Ayon Sengupta

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He may not have lived up to his IPL I billing but Parthiv Patel did show his class in the limited opportunities he got in Season II in South Africa. In the semi-finals against Royal Challengers Bangalore the diminutive opener from Ahmedabad matched the great Matthew Hayden shot-for-shot and actually ended up outscoring him.

Parthiv as a batsman was his usual effective self, scoring at a brisk rate, and even behind the stumps he looked assured and composed.

“The wickets there are bouncy and the ball nicely comes to your bat. The extra bounce, though, can create problems at times. For a change it helped being short; it gave me the chance to get underneath the ball and work it around,” the 24-year-old wicketkeeper says. “Keeping was an absolute joy, especially against world-class bowlers like Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) and Albie Morkel.”

Backed by a good domestic season earlier, the former under-19 skipper is eyeing a comeback to the national side, though he nourishes no ambition of rocking skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s pedestal. “I am happy I have made good of the opportunity and I am confident of finding my place back,” he says.

“I know Dhoni is the No. 1 choice but I don’t think I am competing with him. The second wicketkeeper’s slot is wide open as you need a backup for long tours. And I think I stand a chance there.”

In 2002 at Trent Bridge against England, Parthiv made his first entry in the Indian side as a late replacement for an injured Ajay Ratra and became the youngest wicketkeeper ever in Test history.

He, though, failed to hold on to his position and has only played 20 Tests and 14 ODIs over the last seven years. The emergence of Dhoni and Dinesh Kaarthick pushed him out of the limelight.

“It is always tough when you get dropped from the Indian team. However, I took it in my stride and worked harder on my technique, both batting and wicketkeeping, besides my overall fitness. I got back to the side for the Sri Lanka series when Dhoni was rested. But then again Dinesh piped me to the New Zealand tour,” says Parthiv. “But I am not giving up.”

Recalling his ordeal outside national reckoning, Parthiv says: “When I look back, I feel it is keeping your concentration over a long period of time that matters most in wicketkeeping. And to do that, fitness is the key.

I have since put in a lot of effort to improve in these areas. And I have also matured a lot as a cricketer. I was blessed to be pushed into the rigorous international scene so early in my career and even if I failed somewhere early, time will always be on my side.”

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