Gone are those days when India had shortage of quality fast bowlers. The current lot has many pacers who can trouble the best in the business. One of them is Harshal Patel, who received his maiden Team India cap in November last year. Having made his professional debut in 2009, the right-arm pacer has been around the scenes since a while.
However, it was the 2021 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which saw Harshal’s emergence as a wicket-taking machine. Playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore, the fast bowler made the ball talk throughout the season and bagged the purple cap. In fact, his tally of 32 wickets is highest for any bowler in any IPL season. Chennai Super Kings’ Dwayne Bravo took as many wickets in 2013.
While Harshal’s stellar efforts couldn’t take RCB to the elusive title, it earned him a maiden Team India call-up. The pacer was selected for India’s three-match T20I series against New Zealand at home. After warming the benches in the opening clash, Patel got to play the next two games and he didn’t disappoint. The 31-year-old returned with four wickets as India whitewashed the Kiwis 3-0.
While Patel has many weapons in his arsenal, his deceptive slower deliveries have particularly impressed the cricket fraternity. Nailing pin-point yorkers is also well within his reach. All these factors make Patel a force to reckon with in white-ball cricket. He has also troubled batters in red-ball cricket as well. Hence, the pacer’s future in international cricket is looking pretty bright at the moment.
In an exclusive interview with CricTracker, Harshal opened about many things and made some interesting revelations as well. From shredding light on his stint with RCB to his international debut, let’s look at how the star pacer responded to our queries.
Here are the excerpts from Harshal Patel’s interview:
Have you been a death bowler specifically or the role came up to you during your stint with RCB?
I had never bowled death overs in IPL prior to the 2021 season. So, when they (RCB) traded me (from Delhi Capitals), they had done their homework. They probably saw the ingredients in me to become a good death bowler and they said: “We want you to take this responsibility and we’ll back you to do this.” So, it came from them. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Has there been any kind of communication from RCB that they might look to pick you again in the auction?
When I was not retained, Mike Hesson (RCB’s Director of Cricket) called me and said, that it was mainly purse management. They would obviously love to have me back in the team and I too would obviously would love to go back and play for the team because RCB and this season (2021) changed my entire career and my entire life. However, in terms of auction, I haven’t heard from any franchises yet.
You were on a roll in the first leg of IPL 2021 before Jadeja scored 37 runs in one of your overs. How did you recollect yourself generally after a bad day at the office?
The one thing you learn in professional sport after 11 years is that you can’t take anything too seriously. As if you start taking these things too seriously, it will be very difficult to sustain. Yes, I made a few mistakes (in that over). I didn’t execute what I wanted to and the batter (Ravindra Jadeja) had a fantastic day. If he had an average day, he would probably miss one or two. So, I had a very bad day as I couldn’t execute a single yorker and he got under each and every delivery.
So, you need to accept, take it in your stride and move on. You very quickly understand that it was error in execution. I suddenly didn’t become a bad bowler because prior to that over, I had picked up three wickets. So, my skill was always there, it was just the matter of execution.
At times injury, at times luck deserted you from getting chances. How did you keep yourself motivated during this period?
Injuries actually builds and tests character because the moment you get injured or the moment you undergo rehab, from that moment to the moment when you return to the field, everything in between requires a lot of patience and consistent work. So, it shows how important this game is for you.
I just want to say (to whoever is going through an injury), I know it’s very difficult mentally and physically but all you need to do it put one step in front of the other, listen to the professionals and keep your mind fresh.
What is it like playing with Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers?
It’s pretty normal to be honest. I don’t get star-struck. Even I remember my first year in IPL, I was never star-struck. I just admire them for what they bring onto the field, the kind of people they are, the level of skill they have and their ability to stand up in pressure situation and say: “I am going to bring the team out of this difficult situation.” That’s what I have learnt from those two guys.
Rahul Dravid took over as India coach in the same series when you made your debut. Any specific conversation with him you had which you would like to share?
He told me: “you have come here after playing 10 years of domestic cricket, you obviously know your game really well, you had a brilliant IPL and I don’t want you to do anything different. You are very confident and you know what you want to do on the field and we’ll back you, just be very clear in your head and enjoy the moment.”
You took 52 wickets in the 2019-20 Ranji season breaking the 36-year state record. But not much red-ball cricket has happened since then. Does this break affect a bowler’s rhythm in the format?
It does feel a bit different purely from the physical and psychological point of view. The way your brain works in T20 is very different from the way it works in red-ball cricket. Red-ball cricket is like meat and potatoes, (you need to) just keep bowling those channels all day long. But in T20, you have to think before every single ball. And also the physical aspect as in T20, you need to bowl four overs.
However, in red-ball cricket, you sometimes have to bowl more than 20 overs in a day. So, these things do change. Just before this (Ranji Trophy) got cancelled, I was in Haryana for a preparation camp and I was enjoying bowling with the red ball and I was looking forward to do season but unfortunately, it got cancelled.
Ajit Agarkar gave you the India cap on international debut. Explain that moment and were you nervous?
No, (I was not nervous). I felt that I would be nervous but I wasn’t as I was coming from a very good IPL. I was very confident about my skill at that point and I knew that I want my spot in the team. I admire him (Ajit Agarkar) as a cricketer. He’s one of the better all-rounders India has ever produced. I have played against him a bit in domestic cricket. So, I respect him a lot.
He just said, “enjoy the moment,” and I replied, “I am honoured receiving my debut cap from you.” It was a moment that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.