The left-arm spinner, made the most of the helpful tracks to scalp 27 wickets against England in the four-Test series earlier this year. And now, in the ongoing two-Test series against New Zealand he has picked nine wickets thus far to take his tally in 2021 to 36 from five Tests at an impressive average of 11.86.
With another five New Zealand wickets remaining in the second Test at Wankhede, the 27-year-old can raise his count further. While he has tasted instant success in Test cricket in his debut season, Patel has had to deal with a few setbacks, too.
The allrounder, soon after walking away with all the accolades against England, was laid low by Covid and was quarantined in Mumbai for 20 days ahead of the IPL.
In England, he spent time twiddling his thumbs as Virat Kohli played Ravindra Jadeja ahead of him and R Ashwin.
Patel was back in action in the remainder of the IPL and was even selected for the T20 World Cup, only to be demoted onto the standbys list by the selectors who were struggling to get their combination right.
The impediments, however, seemed to have had no bearings as Patel has not only taken huge strides where his bowling is concerned but he also seems to have made a marked improvement in his batting.
On a difficult Mumbai pitch, Patel has racked up scores of 52 and 41 (off 26 deliveries). His fifty in the first outing helped shore up India’s innings, while in the second he used the long handle to good effect.
“The team management has faith in my batting abilities and they have always told me that ‘You can do it’. Just that earlier when I got chances, I couldn’t convert my starts. But this time when I got the opportunity, I was able to convert. My batting is benefitting my team and if you see that myself, Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) and Ash bhai (R Ashwin) play as allrounders, it releases a bit of pressure on our batters, so it’s a good sign. As long as I keep contributing it’s good for both me and my team,” Axar said after the third day’s play on Sunday.
Asked to assess his year, he said, “Actually, this has been my dream year you can say. The way I bowled in England series and now how the New Zealand series panned out, in between there was IPL, so I can say that this has really been a good year for me personally. My endeavour is to keep improving and look at areas where I need to get better. All the hard work that I have put in all these years has finally yielded results this year.”