A career spanning 18 years, featuring only 25 Tests and 38 ODIs could be viewed as a career of unfulfilled ambitions. But Parthiv Patel’s cricket-journey is not just about how much he played, but also how he played and what he was part of along the way.
Patel refused any notion of regrets as he retired from all forms of cricket aged 35.
“My family was in tears, but I was quite ok,” he said. “I am very happy with where I am, as I end my career. There is no feeling that I could have achieved this or that.”
After his first stint as India player between 2002-04 ended, Patel, like all other wicket-keeper batsmen of that time, remained under the giant shadow of MS Dhoni. His Test debut became a talking point as the cricket world watched in admiration the maturity of a 17-year-old boy of cherubic looks batting out the final session at Nottingham to help India save the Test.
“As I walked out of the field, the two teams gave me a guard of honour, which was never intended to be. I still have that picture in my house,” Patel said.
He would lose his India place because of technical issues with his wicket-keeping, but selectors continued to dial his number when Dhoni was unavailable. He got a Test recall in 2008 for a Sri Lanka tour, where DRS was first introduced. He also had a productive white-ball series, playing as an opener in England in 2011, when he stroked a career-best 95.
But the most unexpected of comebacks came at home against England in 2016, when after a gap of 83 missed Tests, he was recalled to fill in for the injured Wriddhiman Saha. Patel was made to open and managed 195 runs in 4 innings, including a career best 71. He had opened earlier in the Rawalpindi test of 2004 against Shoaib Akhtar and co. as well.
“I could show that I was someone who was always ready to put his hand up when the team needed it. That’s how I always wanted to be known,” he said.
Patel has been part of some storied dressing rooms; he was there when Sourav Ganguly waved his shirt from the Lords balcony after winning the Natwest trophy, in Johannesburg when India’s World Cup hopes came crashing down in the final, in Test wins at Headingley 2002, Adelaide 2003, Johannesburg 2018, and seen three IPL-wins (CSK 2010, MI 2015 and 17). He remains the only one from the Ganguly-era to have also played for India under Virat Kohli.
Patel’s perseverance paid off when he led Gujarat to their maiden Ranji trophy title in 2016-17, which he counts amongst his two-best career moments apart from playing Test cricket for India. “The India cap that Sourav gave me was misspelt. It said ‘Partiv’,” he joked.
As he gained experience, selectors and talent scouts turned to him for feedback; Mumbai Indians’ John Wright relied on Patel’s advice before adding Jasprit Bumrah to the fold.
“I wouldn’t like to take any credit for it, but I am quite proud that someone from my state team which I was leading went on to be the no.1 bowler,” he said.