Parthiv Patel woke up to delightful news on Wednesday after he got a call-back into the Indian Test team after a gap of eight years as Wriddhiman Saha was ruled out of the third Test at Mohali with a side strain.
For the Gujarat wicketkeeper-batsman, it presents another chance for him to prove his credentials to the national selectors, and pull himself back into their radar, even if he is only picked for one Test and is likely to get replaced once Saha returns to fitness.
Patel's last Test was during India's tour of Sri Lanka eight years ago, where he was included in the team for the final Test at Colombo's P Sara Oval. However, it was only a matter of time before MS Dhoni returned to the role after opting out for that particular series.
While the doors were shut on him as far as Tests were concerned, he was still in the reckoning as far as One-Day Internationals (ODI) were concerned, at least when Dhoni decided to make himself unavailable which also led to Virender Sehwag captaining in his absence.
The diminutive cricketer from Ahmedabad made his international debut during India's tour of England in 2002 under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. At the age of 17, he was the youngest wicketkeeper, and the fourth-youngest cricketer to debut for India in both Tests and ODIs.
According to an entry in Young Wisden: A new fan's guide to cricket, Patel was assumed to be a team mascot during his debut series in England, rather than a player. Also, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) regulations required cricketers below the age of 18 to get a written permission from their parents to not wear a helmet during a match, although Patel was exempted from that rule.
Making his debut in the second Test of the four-match series in that tour, Patel's highlight in that tour was an unbeaten 19 in that match that helped stave a defeat off for his side.
It is also interesting to note that none of the players from the current squads of both India and England had made their debuts when Patel first announced himself in international cricket. Both Gareth Batty and James Anderson, two of the senior-most members of the England squad, made their international debuts four months after Patel.
— Chandresh Narayanan (@chand2579) November 23, 2016
While he had his moments during the tours of Australia (2003-04) and Pakistan (2004), especially with the bat, it was his inconsistent wicketkeeping abilities that eventually led to him losing out on his place in the side.
Patel saw Dhoni debut and the fix a permanent spot in the national team across all formats, and by the time he made his comeback into the side, India's most successful captain had already retired from Tests.
Parthiv Patel made his Debut 3 years before Dhoni. Watched his whole career unfold. And is around to step in for his replacement. He's 31
— Gaurav Kalra (@gauravkalra75) November 23, 2016
Having missed 83 Tests since his last appearance eight years ago, Patel has consistently performed for Gujarat in First-Class cricket, although it was never enough to bring him back into national reckoning, until his form in the ongoing Ranji Trophy (in which he has scored a total of 415 runs at an average of 59.28, including a century and three fifties) brought him up the pecking order. Until his last Test, back in 2008, he averaged a mediocre 36.98 in First-class cricket but from the time he was dropped till date, he has averaged 51.31 with 16 centuries and 29 fifties.
He underwent a roller-coaster ride in the IPL, in which he represented as many as six franchises. However, his most fruitful edition was the 2015 one, in which he formed a successful opening partnership with West Indian Lendl Simmons, and accumulated 339 runs at an average of 26 and a strike rate of 137. In the previous season, he was the most successful wicketkeeper with 12 dismissals, beating Saha to the honour.
In a stroke of luck, Madhya Pradesh's Naman Ojha had just returned from an injury, and questions over hit fitness and match-readiness would have still persisted.
On the other hand, young Rishabh Pant, who is in a blazing form with the bat at the moment for Delhi, would have had questions hover of his wicketkeeping skills, which is what experts such as senior journalist Ayaz Memon have opined.
"This is a crucial series. India are 1-0 up, and they would want to go with their best combination without any chances of errors coming in."
"You drop a couple of catches, miss a stumping, through sheer inexperience and nerves, it could cost you a match. Wicketkeepers take a while to evolve. But I hope they considered him," Memon was quoted as saying to Firstpost.
19-yr-old Rishabh Pant could've been an interesting punt. Has been in gr8 form with bat, tho `keeping skills admittedly take time to develop
— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) November 23, 2016
While Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik — his closest rival as far as a place in the Indian team was concerned — has racked up quality numbers in the ongoing Ranji Trophy (574 runs at 63.77), Parthiv's left-handed batting, according to to a BCCI official, would have seen as a better weapon against Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari who spin the ball into the batsman.
While he's made a comeback to the team after a massive gap of eight years, there will be excitement, there will be relief but more than that there will be tremendous pressure to perform. Over the last couple of years, veterans like Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir have made comebacks after a long lay-off but didn't manage to seal their place in the team. There are high chances that Parthiv too will get very few chances and he will need to grab it with both hands in order to stay in the reckoning and extend his international career.