Parthiv Patel: 'India will go to England with lot of self-confidence'

Parthiv Patel has his sights set on the Test whites with India's tour of England in the not-too-distant future.

Parthiv Patel says he's working hard on his keeping, being the second-choice wicketkeeper in the Indian Test side.   -  K. Murali Kumar

When Parthiv Patel made his Test debut aged 17, he was the youngest player to don the wicketkeeping gloves. In 2002, against a potent England attack of Andrew Flintoff, Dominic Cork, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison - Patel scored a gritty 19 to save India the blushes in the Trent Bridge Test. This was after he was out for a duck in his first Test innings. 

Now as India closes in on yet another trip to the English shores, Patel has his sights set on the Test whites. "I've already started preparing for it," he says. 

"Even during the IPL, I've been doing a lot of keeping drills instead of just focussing on my batting. These are exciting times for Indian cricket and after how we played in South Africa, I'm sure we'll go to England with a lot of self-confidence," he adds. 

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India lost the series 1-2, but fought gallantly at the Wanderers to beat South Africa by 63 runs and secure the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket; a win, which Parthiv remarks, was a reflection of the team's 'character'. 

"Throughout the Test, we believed that we could win the match. We always thought we were ahead of South Africa. I mean we were willing to continue with the game whereas they weren't; that was quite evident. 

"It was a great opportunity for us to show our strength; the kind of appreciation we got for winning on a pitch like that showed that we had the team to beat South Africa," the 33-year-old says. 

Patel has had a stop-start career. His early days coincided with the rise of M. S. Dhoni, who soon became India's first-choice keeper and later, went on to lead India. Just how infrequent Patel has been in the Indian dressing room can be gauged from the fact that since making his Test debut 16 years ago, he has featured in 25 Tests for the country. 

Dhoni kept wickets in all the three formats until 2014, when the former captain retired from the longer format following the drawn Test against Australia in Melbourne. Upon Dhoni's retirement, the door opened for Patel who continues to jostle for a spot with Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha - currently India's first-choice keeper. Suffice to say, Patel has spent his best cricketing days on the fringes. 

But the diminutive southpaw has been a stalwart for his state side Gujarat in the domestic circuit. Having amassed 10519 runs from 181 matches at an average of 43.64 speak volumes about Patel's influence on Gujarat's upswing in the recent years. It was under his captaincy, Gujarat won the 2016-17 Ranji trophy- its maiden Ranji title - beating  Mumbai by five wickets in the final. 

"For us, in Gujarat, it was about overcoming the mental block. The Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) has played a big role and the players' keenness matters as well. We also hired R.P. Singh, and I was there to talk about batting. 

"We prepared our team to play 11 games, not just eight. So, midway through the season, we used to rest our pacers - even though they were bowling well - keeping in mind the end goal, which was to win the Ranji Trophy," he says. 

"It was Priyank (Panchal) who led the charge with the bat. So yeah, a lot of things need to fall into place if the side wants to go all the way, especially in a two-and-a-half-month-long tournament," he adds.  Mumbai and Karnataka, for long, have been the domestic heavyweights and while they continue to impress, the upsurge of teams like Gujarat and Vidarbha augurs well for the future of Indian cricket, Patel says. 

"I think it's great, to be honest with you. The entire region has done well, Gujarat, Saurashtra and Vadodara. If you look at the Indian Test side, you've me, Jasprit Bumrah, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya. Krunal (Pandya) has been doing really well in the domestic circuit. Even Irfan (Pathan) was there for a while," he explains. 

"And it's not just the players who are doing well, even the teams have shown their mettle. Gujarat, for instance, clinched the 2016-17 Ranji title whereas Saurashtra made it to the finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year," he adds before lauding the IPL for playing its part in the holistic development of the players. 

"The IPL has helped these players grow in that by playing for different teams, they've travelled around, it's not like they've stayed only in Gujarat. That makes them feel they can win the bigger tournaments."