Axar Patel, who rattled England by picking his second consecutive five-fer, has asserted that it’s important to capitalize on the momentum and added that he always has a solitary goal, which is to bowl stump-to-stump. Axar further said that on turning tracks, 85-90 kmph is ‘optimum speed’.
Though Axar Patel ravaged England on debut, picking 7 wickets, many put down his stellar performance to the raging turner that was the Chepauk wicket, but on Wednesday in Ahmedabad, the left-arm spinner proved that his showing in the second Test was no flash in the pan.
Coming in as first-change on a mysterious Ahmedabad wicket, the 27-year-old struck on his very first ball, and then remarkably went on to pick six English wickets to help India bowl the visitors out for a modest 112. The showing on Day 1 was the left-armer’s second consecutive five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and a chunk of his wickets came via natural variation, with the batsmen getting defeated by playing for non-existent turn.
That Axar ultimately got the better of the batsmen was down to the fact that he bowled a stringent stump-to-stump line, and speaking in the press conference post the day, the 27-year-old insisted that bowling wicket-to-wicket is something he religiously strives to do.
“When things are going for you, you need to capitalise. My aim is to keep wicket to wicket and use the help on offer,” Axar said in the press conference post the day.
“With a lot of T20 cricket happening, the effects are there in Tests as well with batsmen being more aggressive. That's why keeping a tight line and pushing it through quicker is being more successful. If the batsman is defending well, then you go on the back foot in your mind. But if he's not defending well and going for sweeps and reverse-sweeps you feel there's a chance coming.”
The nature of the pink-ball meant that a fair few deliveries skid through the surface, and this resulted in seven English batsmen being dismissed bowled or LBW. Five of those were rendered possible by the arm of Axar, and the left-armer claimed that he managed to do so by bowling at ‘optimum pace’.
“In Chennai, the ball wasn't skidding. But here it is and there are more LBWs. 85-90kph is an optimum speed.”
Apart from bowling stump-to-stump and bowling at optimum pace, Axar also used one of his variations, the arm ball, to great effect. The 27-year-old sliding in the quicker ones from time to time not only kept the batsmen guessing but also took time away from their hands. He revealed that the quicker one was a delivery he mastered when he was at the NCA in Bengaluru.
“I learnt the art of bowling arm ball by practising it time and again. When I was in the National Cricket Academy, Venkat Sir really helped me a lot. Earlier, I used to be a pacer, so bowling faster arm balls came from that time only,” Axar spoke of his lethal arm ball.
Few have had such a dominant start to their Test career like Axar has - 13 wickets in 3 innings - but an interesting aspect of his career is, owing to him having played just 38 first-class games in the first 9 years of his career, he has been viewed as a predominant white-ball prospect - at least until now. But when asked if he wished to have played more red-ball cricket in the years gone by, the Gujarat spinner asserted that he’s grateful for all the experience he’s had and has no regrets over how his career has progressed.
“I have played a lot of cricket in the last few years - India, India A, and the IPL. I don’t think I should think like if I have played a lot of matches or not. Because all the experience helped me grow and deliver this performance.”