Rajat Patidar grew up hoping to be a fast bowler. But an ACL injury in 2014 forced him to shift to batting. A decade on, he’s on the cusp of a Test debut, as a middle-order batter. With Virat Kohli and KL Rahul unavailable, Patidar could well slot in at four or five.
If that happens, it will be the start of another chapter for Patidar, the 30-year-old from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, who earned an ODI cap in South Africa in December. Patidar still wonders how life has turned around in the last few months, after he spent nearly eight months away from the game for an Achilles injury that required surgery in London.
“It’s always tough when you get injured,” Patidar told bcci.tv. “I told myself that I couldn’t do anything about the time it would take me to recover, I couldn’t change that. So I stayed in the present and did whatever I could. Getting a call-up [to the Test team] so soon after recovering from the injury is my happiest moment, because my biggest dream was always to play Test cricket for my country. So when the call came, I was very happy. I was with India A, and was happy that what I had dreamed of had happened.”
Patidar has been in sensational form lately. He struck a back-to-the-wall 151 in his most recent first-class outing, for India A against England Lions. Prior to that, he made 111 in a two-day game against the same opponents. That culminated in his maiden call-up to the Test squad last week. And at his first net session with the national team in Visakhapatnam, he had an opportunity to interact with someone he hadn’t spoken a whole lot with.
“I have played with many of the players [who are in the Test team] in domestic cricket. I have been speaking to Rahul [Dravid] sir when I have been around him,” Patidar said. “I hadn’t spoken much with Rohit [Sharma] bhai earlier, but got a chance to speak to him about batting on this tour. He shares his experience. That’s given me confidence.”
Patidar is a free-stroking batter with a strong technique and good base. He’s known for his ability to play spin well and, in general, take the attack to the bowlers while being consistent. A first-class average of 45.97 in 93 innings is testament to that.
“I have always been an aggressive batter, from the time I started in domestic cricket, I have always played these shots,” he said. “It’s my habit, it’s about preparation – I have prepared for it, so it’s become a habit now. I study opposition bowlers, the patterns in their bowling, their fields, and also watch people like Rohit bhaihow he tackles those fields. I have tried to add all that to my game.
“I always observe, from behind the nets or wherever I can, when he [Virat Kohli] bats. I especially observe his footwork for over-pitched deliveries and his body movements. I enjoy watching him, and try to add all that in my game. It’s not easy, but I am giving it a good shot.”
Sarfaraz: ‘I was not sure I had actually been selected’
Patidar isn’t the only uncapped player in the Test group. Another one knocking on the doors for a while now is Mumbai’s Sarfaraz Khan. No batter in the world who has aggregated 2000 or more first-class runs since 2020 averages more than Sarfaraz’s 82.40. His call-up has taken a while coming, and Sarfaraz couldn’t be happier.
“This game is about patience. If I have to play Test cricket, I have to be patient,” he told bcci.tv. “There are times in life when we try to rush into things. I would have tears in my eyes [when I wasn’t selected]. My things [father] told me, ‘keep working hard, no-one can stop you’. I feel it’s very important to believe in yourself and be patient. More than myself, I am happy for my father. It’s a matter of great pride that in a country of over a billion people, I am in the team.”
Like Patidar, Sarfaraz is coming off a century (a 160-ball 161) in his most recent first-class outing, also for India A against Lions. He was gearing up to play for Mumbai against Bengal in Kolkata, starting Friday, when he received the big call.
“I didn’t believe it at first, I was not sure I had actually been selected,” he said. “Then I told people at home; my father wasn’t at home at the time, he was at our village, so I called him, and everyone – my wife, things, ammi [mother]. Everyone was so happy and emotional.”
Sarfaraz’s younger brother Musheer is also currently making waves in junior cricket, having hit two hundreds in the ongoing Under-19 World Cup in South Africa. Naushad Khan, who received a BCCI award on Sarfaraz’s behalf last week in Hyderabad, has been a major influence on his sons.
“Everyone knows my father has been my coach, so I have always tried to make sure his efforts don’t go in vain, I wanted to be selected for India one day,” Sarfaraz said. “Now I think all the work I have put in hasn’t been wasted. I am in the team now, I am thrilled.
“I have had a dream that all my India A team-mates are congratulating me, shaking my hand, coming to greet me. The dream of being selected to the national team would keep visiting me – I am playing for India, I am scoring runs… whatever happens, happens for the best. It’s a dream come true now.”
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