Parthiv Patel 'can't stay away' from cricket

By announcing his retirement from all forms of the game, Parthiv Patel has taken a step closer towards serving the game in a different role.

Parthiv Patel guided Gujarat to its maiden Ranji Trophy title in 2016-2017 season.   -  M. VEDHAN

A cricketer with a built-in-smile ! By announcing his retirement from all forms of the game, Parthiv Patel has taken a step closer towards serving the game in a different role. “Can’t stay away from cricket,” he declares.

The affable wicketkeeper-batsman made his Test debut 26 months before he played his first Ranji Trophy match. He was 17 when he earned his Test cap against England at Nottingham in 2002. His final Test appearance came 16 years later against South Africa at Johannesburg.

READ: Parthiv Patel announces retirement from all forms of cricket

In 16 years, Parthiv played just 25 Tests and not always for want of form or performance. He accepted the indifference from the selectors and the team management without a grudge and traversed the cricket fields of the country to sign off with an aggregate of 194 first-class matches with 27 centuries and 563 dismissals, including 486 catches. He was a reliable batsman who improved with the passage of time. His wicket-keeping skills were honed from the passion to keep learning. Parthiv was always as good a wicketkeeper as any other in the country.

Statistics never reflect the contributions of a sportsman. In Parthiv’s case, they don’t do justice at all. It was a frustrating experience for the Gujarat cricketer to “sit out” when he was expected to figure in the playing XI.

His career witnessed a rosy phase from August 2002 to October 2004 during which he played 16 Tests. He was not even 20 when he lost his place to Dinesh Karthik for the home series against Australia. A solitary Test in 2008, against Sri Lanka, was not the ideal advertisement for his potential.

Parthiv was not even 20 when he lost his place to Dinesh Karthik for the home series against Australia.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

 

He was the best wicketkeeper in the country but India was banking more on Mahendra Sngh Dhoni, who added that extra zing to the team’s batting line up with his explosive strength. Parthiv remained in oblivion for eight years before the National selectors brought him back for the home series against England.

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Three Tests was all he got before Wriddhiman Saha returned to the team. Decent performances in domestic cricket kept him in the loop and he got picked for the 2018 series in South Africa. “This is very special. I know I had done well to merit selection. It is also motivating when you know you are good enough to be picked but have to wait for the chance. I was never demoralized. I just told myself that I need to play with the same intensity always because there was lot of cricket to be played. I had to work hard to see that Gujarat stayed at the top,” he had told this reporter then.

It was hardly surprising that Parthiv, the first Indian batsman to score five consecutive centuries in first class cricket, found himself dropped from the squad. Going out of the reckoning again did not hurt him more than the fact that he was not given a fair run to establish himself. A conversation with him in 2017 reflected his mindset. 

His impressive career – 25 Tests, 38 ODIs and 194 first-class matches – places him among the finest wicket-keepers of India with an aggregate of 11240 runs.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

 

“I was dropped when I was 20. There are players who don’t even start First Class cricket at that age. I had the advantage of knowing things. What it takes to make a mark at the international level. I had that advantage. I was mature as a player and that helped me make a comeback.”

His hard work to stay relevant was not for everyone to see.

“There were a few times when I thought I may not be able to catch the ball again. I was scared of catching the ball, honestly. Then I decided to train with the under-16 boys to regain my confidence. I just did not worry about getting dropped from any team anymore. I had to once again start enjoying my cricket. My family supported me and my association backed me. That was critical,” Parthiv had said on his struggle to keep his place in the state team.

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He had played a major part by giving his best to Gujarat and what better gift than the maiden Ranji Trophy title in 2017. Gujarat became the 16th team to win the Ranji Trophy and Parthiv was the guiding force with scores of 90 and 144 to sink Mumbai in the final. It was his policy to bring in youngsters, “match-winners” as he insisted, that gave Gujarat the impetus to achieve its first ever Ranji Trophy title.

This February, he played his final first-class match – Ranji Trophy semifinal against Saurashtra at Rajkot. He made 27 in the first innings and a brilliant 93 in the second as he led Gujarat’s march to the victory target. Gujarat, however, lost by 92 runs and it became his swan song.   

Parthiv’s stints in the media – commentator and expert – were well received. “I enjoyed doing the television work,” was his response. He was looking at avenues off the field – in administration too – and it was hardly surprising to receive a call from Parthiv to share the decision to “retire” at 35.

His impressive career – 25 Tests, 38 ODIs and 194 first-class matches – places him among the finest wicket-keepers of India with an aggregate of 11240 runs. He was a rare cricketer who always hit it off with the opponents. At the end of his cricket journey, Parthiv, for all his talent with the bat and the gloves, shall remain an under-achiever because his career clashed with Dhoni, one of the greatest Indian cricketers.