IPL 2021: Mumbai Indians Parthiv Patel starts scouting talent, says ‘IPL greatest academy’

IPL 2021 – Mumbai Indians Parthiv Patel: Parthiv Patel has earnestly begun his new job as head hunter for IPL franchise Mumbai Indians (MI). The 35-year-old former India stumper travelled to Kolkata recently to get a first hand account of the emerging talent in the league phase of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament played at two venues in the Eastern city.

After the Kolkata stint, he returned to his hometown Ahmedabad for the knock out phase of the same tournament played at the Motera Stadium. Patel bid adieu to all forms of competitive cricket on December 9, 2020 and the next day, the five-time League title winner said that its wicket-keeper batsman for three years (2015-17) would look for budding cricketers for three seasons from the 14th edition of the League, the auction for which will be held on February 18 in Chennai.

IPL 2021 – Mumbai Indians : Parthiv Patel says thanks for the role

After accepting the offer for the post of talent scout, Patel said: ”I enjoyed my cricket playing for Mumbai Indians, and those momentous three years with the champion side remain etched in my memory. It’s now time to turn a new chapter in my life. I am excited, confident and thankful to the MI management for the opportunity presented to me.

Patel was a mere 17 when he was drafted into the India playing XI for the first time in the Trent Bridge Test of 2002. And, 19 years later he is actually mentoring under-16 players in his State and finding talent for the Rohit Sharma-led MI side.

IPL 2021 – Parthiv Patel on how he is scouting talent for Mumbai Indians

Without doubt, he has embraced his new assignment with all passion and sincerity. When asked about the mindset of an under-17 cricketer these days, Patel, as a matter of fact, said: “ I think they are far more smarter than what I was. These days, I speak to a lot of under-16 players. They have had much more exposure. When I was 16, I saw matches live on Doordarshan. There was not much of analytical commentary and fundamentals and technique related shows on television. Today, everything is on television and hence there is more exposure for the young cricketers. They have much more game sense than I had. When I look back at events that unfolded when I was 17 and today’s 17-year-olds, I am surprised that I played for India at 17!”

IPL 2021 – Parthiv Patel says no fear in any young Indian player now

MI saw the potential in Patel as a talent scout because he has played 145 IPL matches for six franchises together. So, how has the IPL evolved? “There is no fear in any young Indian player now. When I played in 2002 for India, there was a huge gap between Ranji Trophy and Test cricket. The IPL brings international level of pressure. The young Indian players are sharing the dressing room with the biggest names in international cricket. After seeing them, you realise that they are normal people.

“The IPL has changed this particular aspect in the young Indians. And this is also the reason why Indian cricket has improved by leaps and bounds. There is no fear of failure. We don’t get intimidated by any team in world cricket. Not all first-class cricketers get to play for India, but they get the financial security. The fearlessness part of it was seen in Australia. That itself shows what IPL has done to Indian cricket.”

IPL 2021 – IPL is the Greatest Academy says Mumbai Indians Parthiv Patel

Patel agrees with Kevin Pietersen that the IPL is the greatest academy in the world. “ A player like Prithvi Shaw gets to pick the brains of Ricky Ponting. Shubman Gill gets lot of time with Brendon McCullum. And even the experienced Rohit Sharma can talk to Mahela Jayawardene. Yes, the IPL is the greatest academy.”

So far, it’s been a thrilling experience for the retired cricketer looking for new players and seeing them at trials in Mumbai. “One can look for a lot of things. Each franchise has its own way. Talent and results go hand-in-hand. It’s a bit tricky, but it’s been good.”

IPL 2021 –

Summing up his career that saw him play 25 Tests, 38 ODIs, and two Twenty20 Internationals, Patel said: “Honestly, I have enjoyed every bit of the twenty years of first-class and international cricket. I would not say that I am through with the hard days. I would rather say that I am into the next phase of my career. I am quite content with what I have done. I am trying to enjoy my family life.”

There were long gaps in Patel’s Test career. Between 2004 and 2008, and between 2008 and 2016. There was a phase at the turn of the new millennium when India’s wicket-keeping tasks seemed to be in the hands of Ajay Ratra and Dinesh Karthik. Patel entered the fray in 2002. But all of a sudden M.S. Dhoni (December 2004) burst into the scene. What was the X-factor in Dhoni that saw him steal the thunder ?

“I think whatever opportunities he (Dhoni) got, he made it count. He converted many innings into match-winning performances. Later on, his leadership skills came to the fore. That he won matches on his own was exceptional. He could bat from No. 1 to 7, basically. When you win matches on your own, you become a legend. Not everyone can do that, but Dhoni had the exceptional ability. That’s why we talk about Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Dhoni in the same breath.”

“Obviously it was very difficult to accept the situation (Dhoni taking charge of India’s wicket-keeping duties) but once you do that, you put everything else behind. That’s what my upbringing has taught me — always stay in the present , not to give up. I took the challenge head on and started working on my game.”

Talking further on his new situation, Patel revealed: “I was talking to the under-16 boys today morning that they enjoyed playing the game and that’s why they are there. I did not start playing cricket because I wanted to play Test cricket. It was just the fun of hitting the ball and catching the ball. That’s what I enjoyed doing. Even today, I would do that.”

Patel soldiered on after Dhoni’s arrival. “My entire focus was on the game and help the teams I played for, especially Gujarat. I promised myself to do that. I set myself a certain amount of intensity, be it playing for my club, district, Gujarat or the IPL team. I would prepare myself as if I would be picked for the next Test series. “

Clearly, Patel had set his eyes on winning major titles for Gujarat. “I put in a lot of hard work, creating a team, and a winning team at that. We won the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy, which is a final frontier for any player. When you start playing for the State, you have a check list: one is to win the Ranji Trophy and next is to play Test cricket.

“I have grown seeing Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy many times. So, I created the winning culture in the Gujarat team. I take it as God’s blessings. My agenda was clear: to help Gujarat win the Ranji Trophy. Those were the biggest days for me — the day Gujarat won the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy. It was a testimony to what I did. Everything was for the interest of Gujarat cricket. For me, cricket is a great game and about scoring runs, it doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s all about remaining 1 + plus against the other.”

A reference to the rise of Jasprit Bumrah as a premier speedster for India evokes lavish praise from Patel, who in a way was responsible for recommending the fast bowler with an awkward action to MI talent scout John Wright many years ago.

“It’s not only because of his awkward action that Bumrah has proved to be successful but also he works really hard. He returned from Australia and he was at the college ground. He trains day in and day out. Jasprit is a role model for young bowlers.”

Patel is a staunch believer in first-class cricket. “Absolutely. First-class cricket teaches you a lot. You can play a scoop only if you have a good defence. Every shot is an extension of a good defence. A guy who plays only the scoop and over the head shots cannot come back to defence, but a guy with good defence can play all shots. All this can be learned in first-class cricket.”

Finally, Patel reveals why he chose to become a wicket-keeper. “I was always more confident as a wicket-keeper than as a batsman. I really worked hard with the big gloves. That’s the reason I was picked for Test cricket. Basically, I wanted to be in the game. I wanted to be a part of everything. When I was 10 or 11, I saw every ball going to the wicket-keeper, whether from a bowler or a throw. That’s the reason I wanted to be a ‘keeper.”