What is common between Deepak Shodhan, Jasu Patel, Nari Contractor, Rusi
Surti and Dhiraj Parsana? They all represented Gujarat and also donned the Indian colours. But that was ages ago.
Parsana, the last to play, figured in two Tests in the 1978-79 home series against the
West Indies. No other Gujarat player has played for India for a shade over two decades now.
Not even the consistently prolific Mukund
Parmar came close to doing so.
But now a young Gujarat player has put on the India jersey after such a long wait. Parthiv Ajay
Patel, the 17-year-old lad
from Ahmedabad, selected in the Indian team as a second wicketkeeper for the Test series in England,
made his international today at Trent Bridge. At 17 years and 158 days, Parthiv
became the youngest wicketkeeper ever to play in a Test and the third youngest Indian to play for his country.
Parthiv eclipsed Pakistani wicketkeeper Hanif Mohammed's record which stood
at 17 years and 300 days when he made his debut against India in New Delhi in
1952-53. Earlier, Budhi Kundaran had the distinction of being the youngest
wicketkeeper for India, having played his first Test match at the age of 21
years and 88 days. He had made his debut against Australia at Bombay in 1960.
At 5'3'', the dimunitive Parthiv is not only a good stumper but also a competent and reliable batsman. And he is a southpaw to boot, just like his
hero Adam Gilchrist. Unlike those numerous youngsters who were generously given the India cap in the last decade or so but failed to capitalise on the opportunity, Parthiv has all the right credentials to establish himself in the national side and
make a name for himself.
The selectors have shown a lot of confidence in his ability despite the fact that he is yet to play a single Ranji Trophy match.
This speaks volumes of the lad's prodigious talents.
On his part, Parthiv has not let anyone down. Not yet. His potential, performance and
progress are such that he looks far mature beyond
his age. Not since the salad days of Sachin Tendulkar has any teenage cricketer caught the imagination of
cricketing pundits in India.
Parthiv has already attracted a lot of media publicity but he continues to remain composed on and off the
field. "To keep a level head is one of my virtues. I've always been like
this even before I began to represent Gujarat and India at junior level. I think no sportsman can afford to be complacent even a wee bit. This is one
of the lessons I've learnt very early in my career. Although I've not experienced too many ups and downs so far, I feel that you should learn to
take the rough with the smooth," he said.
It was not for nothing that he was appointed captain of the Under-17 Indian team
for the Asia Cup held in Bangladesh in 2000-2001. Besides his class
and character as a player, what the selectors noted was his supreme self-confidence in
an hour of crisis. Parthiv not only led the team
successfully but also saw that it won the tournament.
He also captained his country in the Under-19 World Cup hosted by New Zealand in 2001-2002. Parthiv
& Co. performed well to reach the semi-finals, a no mean achievement. In seven matches, Parthiv scored 184 (highest 74) runs at 26.28 with a strike-rate of 95.33, snapped
catches and effected 3 stumpings.
So consistent was Parthiv behind and in front of the wickets that, irrespective of his age, the selectors had to pick him in the India A team
that toured South Africa and Sri Lanka recently. Inspite of the presence of several players who had represented India in Tests and ODIs, he held his own
and impressed all, including coach Yashpal Sharma, who described Parthiv's performance in the rainbow nation as "outstanding".
In 4 "Tests" and 6 innings against South Africa A, he made 124 runs (highest 69) at 45.75 and dismissed 13 batsmen (11 caught, 2 stumped). In 4
one-dayers and 3 innings, he scored 75 runs (best 32) at 37.50 with a strike-rate of 70.09 and was instrumental in removing 5 batsmen
(3 caught, 2 stumped).
In 3 "Tests" and 2 innings against Sri Lanka A, Parthiv scored 125 (best 74) runs at 125.00 and also caught 5 batsmen and stumped
one. In 3 one-dayers and 3 innings against the islanders, he made 78 (highest 71) runs at 39.00 with a strike-rate of 108.33 and caught 8
For someone so young, these are really impressive statistics, keeping in mind
that Parthiv had been up against
different conditions in Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
The national selectors, looking for a dependable wicketkeeper who could also make substantial contributions with the bat,
took all these factors into consideration before deciding on him for the England tour ahead of the likes of Deep Dasgupta, Samir Dighe, Vijay Dahiya and, of course,
Was he surprised at his selection? "Not really. I was always confident
of breaking into the senior national team after my reasonably good showing abroad and also the way I had been encouraged by
key BCCI personalities,
including selectors. Of course, my selection at such a young age must have surprised many in India. I think this is a just reward of my services to
Indian cricket," he explained.
It is as an understudy to Ajay Ratra - who himself is a young and talented wicketkeeper-batsman - that Parthiv
is touring the Old Country. Though a four-Test series, it was very likely that he may not
have played today had Ratra not pulled out with an injury.
"They say the English weather and wickets remain unpredictable and
are a true test of a youngster's skills and temperament. So I look upon the England jaunt as a good learning experience. I'll grab the opportunity and try my utmost," he
That Parthiv can keep his nerves even in trying circumstances on the field is understandable
as the Patels live
in one of the most communally sensitive areas of Ahmedabad - Dhana Sutharni Pol near Relief Road. Infamous for frequent spells of communal riots, the
area has suddenly become famous for its star cricketer.
Parthiv is used to handling difficult situations since his birth on March 9,
1985. When his mother, Nisha, complained of labour pain, there was curfew in their area. A way was found out somehow to rush her to the
hospital. Curfew was again clamped when Nisha returned with little Parthiv in her arms.
"So many times have we seen stones, nails and crude bombs being thrown
at our old building. I remember everything since I was seven or eight-years-old.
used to all these things," he revealed and his father Ajay, a small trader,
Parthiv began playing cricket seriously at the age of 9 and by the time he was 12 he started participating in inter-school tournaments in
Ahmedabad. Based on his performances he was soon representing, even captaining, Gujarat and West Zone in various
age-group junior tournaments conducted by the BCCI.
Though he has many stunning performances to his credit, one particular display against Maharashtra in an
under-16 tie deserves mention here.
Opening the innings, Parthiv made 101 in Gujarat's first innings total of 196 in reply to Maharashtra's
huge score. Following on, Gujarat
managed to draw the game and salvaged some pride thanks to Parthiv's unconquered 201.
Having hogged the headlines, Parthiv was never short of encouragement. It did not come as a surprise when he was
chosen for the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. His skills, whether armed with the gloves or the willow, made a good impression on the
coaches there and he was singled out for special treatment. Soon he was leading India to the Under-17 Asia Cup triumph in Dhaka.
The reward was a 45-day stint at the famed Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy in Adelaide, Australia, as part of the Allan Border-Sunil Gavaskar
scholarship. Watched and guided by the likes of Wayne Phillips and Ian Chappell, Parthiv
cherishes the crucial tips he learnt from the legendary Rodney Marsh.
Parthiv's strength is his "safe" pair of hands. Marsh taught him how to gather the ball with the body right behind it. Though he appears to be quite comfortable against speedsters as well as spinners,
Parthiv says slow bowlers, particularly leg-spinners, more so someone like Anil Kumble, who sometimes makes the ball lift awkwardly, can pose a real
"If your reflexes are smooth, judgment perfect and
gathering neat and clean, there should not be any problem," he added. "Having
said that, I must admit there is still a lot of scope for improvement in my work
behind the stumps. With more and more exposure and experience, I hope I will be able to sharpen my talents in this particular department."
As a batsman Parthiv is nothing less than flamboyant when the mood is on him.
However, he can check his bouts of aggression and
drop anchor when needed. "I've opened and also batted in the middle order in both forms of the game. I don't have any particular favourite batting position. I just love to bat and play my natural game as
far as possible," he remarked.
The lad has had a host of coaches, including Yogendra Puri, Shailesh Pandya, Niketan Walera, Narendra Sharma, Ashok Saheba, Anil
Bhatt, Hitesh Parthiv and Vijay Parthiv, but the man who has played a pivotal part
in Parthiv's cricket and mental development is uncle Jagat Parthiv.
Acknowledging the contribution his coaches, Parthiv said "My uncle is the single most influence on me, my cricket and my career
thus far. Rather than a relative, he is more like a friend, philosopher and guide
to me. I wonder if I would have reached so far without his help and guidance. He always dreamt of seeing me play for India in Test cricket.
A State Bank of India employee, Jagat, 42, has vowed to remain a bachelor to pay attention to the
progress of his precocious nephew. "I had recognised Parthiv's
innate talents very early. I knew that if nurtured properly, Parthiv would grow into a very fine player. I'm glad he has proved me right. He is a very hard
working boy who has not allowed laziness to enter his his body, mind and even cricketing lexicon,"
"Parthiv has done Gujarat proud. The news of his selection has brought
welcome relief in the riot-ravaged state. He is very gifted, determined and committed. He has it in him to serve
Indian cricket for years. It's not only his sound technique as a wicketkeeper and as batsman but also his mental toughness that has stood
Parthiv in good stead regardless of his tender age. This lad will go places,"
said Hitesh "Pochi" Patel, joint secretary, Gujarat
A bright student (his glasses give him a scholarly look) in his own right, Parthiv
is in Class XII of Vidyanagar School in the
Usmanpura area of Ahmedabad. He could not take his annual exams, first because of his overseas tours and then
due to the riots. "I'm not
worried about my studies so long as I'm doing well in my cricket," chirped
a cheerful Parthiv, who hopes to complete his graduation in Commerce in the future.
The cherubic Parthiv is also fond of
reading, watching Hindi films, listening to soft music and "spicy" Gujarati food.
Now that he has made his Test debut, Parthiv is aiming at holding on to his place in the team.
"I want to play regularly for India and bring many laurels for my country," he
had emphasised before embarking on the England tour.
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