As a bowler, the last few months may not have been very impressive for Gujarat’s Akshar Patel but as an all-rounder, he has started proving his mettle. If veterans like Ricky Ponting are seen becoming his fans, then you must have guessed that there is something special in this player of Delhi Capitals. In the absence of Rishabh Pant, Akshar Patel will prove to be an important player for his team in the IPL and perhaps that is why head coach Ponting has given him the responsibility of vice-captaincy. With this, the former Australian captain has tried to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, Akshar Patel should become more responsible and secondly, there should not be any communication problem with Indian players due to foreign captaincy like David Warner. In a way, Patel can become a bridge for the Potting-Warner duo in team management.
Akshar Patel got married only last month and his honeymoon is intact on the cricket field. In a difficult Test series against Australia, he made a great impression as a batsman. If in just 5 innings he scored 264 runs at an average of 88 including 3 half-centuries, then it was also important that he came close to scoring a century on all three occasions. Only Virat Kohli (297) and Usman Khawaja (333 runs) scored more runs than him during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The runs came on challenging pitches during the first three Tests.
Akshar Patel’s recent batting has not surprised Capitals coach Potting but has proved his belief right. Ponting believes that Patel now has the substance that he can bat at any position from No.4 to No.6 in the IPL. Patel can be very aggressive when needed, then looking at the opportunity, he can also save wickets carefully. Ponting recently revealed how he had suggested a few tweaks to his technique last year, which has now made Patel a very good batsman against short-pitched deliveries.
Actually, Potting is not a fan of letters from today but more than a decade ago. In 2013, when Patel joined the Mumbai Indians team as a youngster, he impressed Ponting with his attitude and talent. It is a different matter that in that period Mumbai had more than one strong player due to which they did not get opportunities. When Patel played for Punjab under another Australian captain George Bailey, his game started to show a lot of shine. In 2016, in a match against Gujarat Lions, Akshar also showed a wonderful hat-trick of 4 wickets in 5 balls. When Aksar moved from Punjab to Delhi in 2019, he got a bid of 5 crores.
In the 2022 IPL Mega Auction, Potting again made a successful attempt to retain his franchise in the team by bidding up to 12 crores on Patel. Now not only IPL and potting but the selectors and management of BCCI and Indian cricket understood the importance of Akshar. In today’s era, he often plays in all three formats of cricket and has got Grade A contract. Many critics also felt that this was a big promotion for Akshar, but it often happens with Akshar that critics make the mistake of taking them lightly. How many people remember that Mahendra Singh Dhoni pitched for him to be picked for Australia in the 2015 World Cup despite not having much experience?
Somewhere these things show that you can get fooled by the innocent and simple image of Akshar. You hear him in a desi accent in the press conference and probably don’t take his ability that much seriously. But, speaking excellent English in a press conference or proving fluency in one’s own tongue is a different art and impressing the captain and fellow players with your cricket on the field is a completely different thing.
About a decade ago, Aksar had received the title of “Emerging Player of the Year” in the year 2014 in the IPL itself. Today he is often a Grade A player for Team India as well as the vice-captain of a powerful IPL team. Who knows where the consistency in his performances with Delhi this year in the IPL and with Team India in the future will take him.
Former Sports Editor of News18 India Vimal Kumar has been in sports journalism for almost 2 decades. Vimal, who is active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) as @Vimalwa, has also covered 4 Cricket World Cups and Rio Olympics.