The term ‘ALL-ROUNDER’ has been a tremendous headache for all avid fans of Indian cricket. The Indians, post the great Kapil Dev were never blessed with a genuine all rounder. Irfan Pathan looked settled for a few years, but then like his bowling pace, his intensity too nosedived for the worse. A key reason behind the lack of a full time all rounder in India has been that the Indian test team often believes in the 7 batsmen; 4 bowler theory.
But now with Virat Kohli ascending to the captaincy, he wants to pump aggression into the young side. Thus Kohli has adopted a 6 batsmen 5 bowlers strategy. As Kohli gears up for his next assignment against the visiting South Africans, he will surely need someone in his side who can bowl miserly, take a wicket here or there and even be a handy batsman. Considering these requirements, Axar Patel seems to be the most viable option.
Apart from Axar Patel, there is Stuart Binny who can fit into the side. But in the sub continent, Binny’s bowling is pretty ordinary. The batsmen can easily milk runs on the bowling of Binny, if he is introduced. From the batting front, Binny does not inspire a lot of confidence. He can play a good inning suddenly, but that will be just once in a blue moon. After the Galle test, Harbhajan Singh’s test career seems to be well over. Singh is no longer the cunning offie he was. Ravindra Jadeja, who has similar characteristics like Axar is another option. But Jadeja is no longer in the good books of the selectors, thus even involving his name as a potential candidate as the fifth bowler wouldn’t make sense.
Axar Patel can be the ideal fifth bowler Virat Kohli is looking out for. Patel recently created havoc against South Africa A, as he bowled 6 overs, without conceding a run, and struck as many as 4 times. That was a splendid spell, which might have cemented Axar’s place in India’s squad for the South Africa series.
The analysis of Axar’s playing style yields very interesting results. Firstly, like R. Ashwin, Axar is a tall spinner and thereby he can generate that extra bounce that can create trouble for the batsmen. In the limited overs, Patel has used his height very efficiently as he has often conned the batsmen with his height factor. On dust bowls in India, Axar’s height will play a very significant role. With Axar already getting assistance from the deck, his height will only compound worries for the batsmen.
Also, Patel is that spinner who bowls at a high pace. Anil Kumble, India’s bowling legend used to bowl pretty quickly and hence he numerously trapped several batsmen plumb in front of the wickets. Patel too bowls quickly and relies mainly on his line and length. Axar has the ability to maintain a disciplined line that can frustrate the batsman in committing an error, thus increasing India’s chances of getting a breakthrough. The likes of Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis shuffle a lot while batting, thus Axar’s deliveries at a quick pace can be difficult for them.
Another aspect in Axar’s favour is that he is promising with the bat. Patel might not have made the most with the bat in ODI’s, but there surely is the room for improvement. In first class, Axar has a decent record and recently against South Africa A, he scored a crucial half century. While his bowling is perfect, his batting too seems to be handy. Nevertheless, he will have to improve big time.
There is still plenty of time before the squad for the South Africa tests is announced. But considering the current selection patterns, Axar Patel’s name might well be on that list. From then on, it will be upto Axar to prove his supporters right.