Ajaz Patel, For The Folklore

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Ajaz Patel, for the folklore. Ajaz became only the third bowler to pick all 10 wicket in an innings

Ajaz Patel, For The FolkloreAjaz became only the third bowler to pick all 10 wicket in an innings

It is conflicts that make characters in a story classic. And on what is Ajaz Patel's greatest cricketing day, there looms a big conflict. How happy can he really afford to be, having become one of cricket's rarest individual achievers while his team quickly slid behind in the game, and the series.

Why will his hard work not be rewarded, like those of Jim Laker or Anil Kumble, who had both achieved the Perfect Tens like him in a Test. Both, Laker and Kumble, had ended up winning the Tests, for England and India respectively. Till Saturday (November 4), Richard Hadlee's 9 for 52 at the Gabba in 1985 was the best by a New Zealander, hitherto. That too had come in a winning cause.

“From the team's perspective, we put ourselves in a tough position,” Ajaz said at the end of the second day's play. “We have to front up tomorrow and work as hard as possible and see if we can turn the game around or eke out something special.”

He put up a brave front after toiling hard for his 10 wickets, bowling almost non-stop in the Indian first innings for 47.6 overs, only to see his teammates fritter away his exemplary achievement. The New Zealanders are staring down the barrel and an Indian win feels like only a matter of time.

“Even though the result may not go New Zealand's way, hope he and his family can enjoy the moment. That (the imminent defeat) should not take anything away from what Ajaz has been able to do. It is a special performance, and all New Zealanders should be proud of it,” Simon Doull, the former New Zealand pacer told Cricbuzz, providing a ‘healing' perspective on the unprecedented bowling effort.

The other major downside to such an epic performance was that it will raise expectations. “I know from now on, the expectation will only go up. I am sure every time you go out there, people will expect you to get a 10-fer,” Kumble, having been there and done that, said, welcoming the 33-year-old Kiwi to the Perfect Ten Club.

Controlling the controllables

Expectations and results, of course, are the uncontrollables and Ajaz today did well on what was within his control. Bowling more than 47 overs was a testimony to his fitness, and Doull admitted that few New Zealand bowlers, who have come to India, have displayed such levels of energy.

“I think Ajaz Patel's fitness has been incredible,” he said. “Of all the bowlers, not just the spin bowlers, over many years, who came to India, he toiled and toiled hard and what he has done at the Wankhede has been phenomenal.”

On the field, he displayed ebullience even in the final over when he claimed the 10th Indian batsman. The strength of his bowling was that he exhibited high standards of discipline by restraining himself from too much experimentation. He was slow in the air and was unerringly accurate in his length to let an aiding pitch do the rest.

“It was just about finding some rhythm and asking good questions to the batters,” Ajaz said.

A left-arm spinner of classical mould, like the incomparable Sri Lankan legend, Rangana Herath, Ajaz did experiment a little though, by varying the length of the flighted deliveries. He extracted bounce and turn off the pitch with deception, guile and skill. He could turn the ball from the sixth stump and could bring it in and take it away too.

Transformation from pace to spin

The story of Martin Guptill smashing Ajaz for the ‘one of the longest ever sixes' during a trial game is a well-documented nugget in his burgeoning 11-Test career. He had written in an autobiographical piece on After the Whistle, and the worst part of it all was the coach asking him to fetch the ball back. He wrote: “I bowled him (Guptill) a couple, then tried to throw in a bouncer. He hit me, to this day, for one of the longest sixes I've ever seen. It went over the set of classrooms on the boundary. I'm hoping that I was just young, and this is all out of perspective, but it felt enormous. I turned around and the coach just looked at me and said, ‘You better go get that ball'.”

He did get the ball back but soon realised that pace was not his strength. Dipak Patel, another Indian-born New Zealand spinner, was his coach and he shaped him into a bowler that he is today.

“His is a feel-good story,” remarked Doull. “The journey he has had from a fast bowler to a spinner, his journey from Mumbai to Auckland, his family's shift to New Zealand… it is an incredible story. It will be part of New Zealand cricket history and the New Zealand cricket folklore.”

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