Deep down, Harshal Patel will be thrilled to contribute towards RCB's victory and in the process becoming the first bowler in the IPL to take five wickets against the Mumbai Indians.
A few years ago, Harshal Patel stood on Mumbai’s Marine drive to hail down a cab. Earlier that afternoon he had been watched by 30,000 spectators at the Wankhede Stadium during an IPL match. But as Patel stood there attempting to fetch a ride not a single person recognised him. It perhaps sums up Patel the cricketer – a non glamorous cricketer that performs at the elite level and continues to be mighty effective.
In the opening match against the Mumbai Indians, Patel picked up his maiden five-wicket haul in the IPL. He also hit the crucial winning run, but chances are it will be AB de Villiers’ late flourish with the bat that will be discussed more on social media and between people. But Patel wouldn’t mind that, after all, he has been part of an IPL franchise for eight years. He has become accustomed to the high profile players stealing the spotlight.
Last night Mumbai looked on track to post a score in excess of 175. The defending champions were 128/3 after 15 overs. Hardik Pandya was ready to tee off, Ishan Kishan was well-set and Pollard was to come. Over the years, Royal Challengers Bangalore have been renowned to concede runs in abundance in the late overs. Everything pointed towards another Mumbai power surge. With so many bowlers at his disposal, the question was, who would Virat Kohli turn to?
Patel had copped a walloping in his only over of the match conceding 15. Until Kohli handed the ball to him at the start of the 16th over, he was a forgotten man. Patel started with three slower balls, his variation causing Hardik to move around in the crease to finally hit a boundary.
Then, with the final ball, a low full-toss, he trapped Pandya plumb in front. At first sighting, it looked like an innocuous delivery that Hardik missed because he was trying to hit it really fine. But the slow motion camera revealed it was a well disguised slower ball. Patel had ripped his hands down one side of the ball causing it to dip. It was a clever piece of bowling because Hardik was expecting the slower cutters to be bowled into the surface. Instead the full length had caused him to misread the ball.
Patel started his next over, the 18th of the innings, in a similar manner with three slower balls. Kishan was expecting another cutter, so he stayed low, hoping to ramp it over short-fine leg, but once again Patel outsmarted him by bowling a fast yorker. Kishan was late on the ball and Mumbai lost another wicket.
But it was Patel’s last over that will remain etched in his memory forever. Bowling to Krunal Pandya and with the long boundary on the leg-side, he could afford to try the short ball. Pandya hit it sweetly, but the size of the boundary resulted in him offering a catch to deep backward square. It was intelligent bowling because Patel studied the finer components of the game.
Despite his success, Patel still had to contend with Kieron Pollard. The West Indian was expecting a wide full ball, a tactic most death bowlers use against him so he stood deep in his crease. Patel, however, bowled another slower ball, Pollard failed to read it and ended up hitting a high catch on the leg-side. Two balls later, he executed an ideal yorker to shatter the stumps to give himself five wickets.
At the end of the match Patel explained his tactic, “The ball was reversing so I just wanted to bowl the yorker, but at the same time I knew they would be waiting for it, so I also knew my slower ball will be deceptive”.
Importantly for Bangalore, Patel had only conceded a solitary run from his final over. Kohli pumped his fists in jubilation. Yuzvendra Chahal and AB de Villiers ran in to pat him on his back. Patel acknowledged his teammates, received his hat and walked off. There were no star jumps, no fist pumping, and no exuberant celebrations.
To top it all, Patel remained calm and composed to hit the winning runs. Overall, it was a memorable outing for Patel. Given his persona and status in the game compared to the other high profile cricketers around him, chances are the next time Patel ventures out on the Marine Drive again, the fans are unlikely to recognise him, but for Patel that has never mattered. Deep down, he will be thrilled to contribute towards victory and in the process becoming the first bowler in the IPL to take five wickets against the Mumbai Indians.
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