RISHAV NARANG | 10 AUGUST, 2017
Parachute landing is an apt term to describe the selection of Axar Patel in the Indian team for the third and final Test match against Sri Lanka. The Gujarat born lad was playing the final of the tri-series for India A against South Africa A at Pretoria when he was informed about being called in the Indian team. He just finished off the game, posed for a team photo with the winning trophy and after winding up everything, rushed to Sri Lanka. He will join the squad soon, superseding Ravindra Jadeja – who has been suspended for the third and final Test match due to violations of rules.
Axar owes much to Jadeja. He was first called into the India team in the year 2014 during India’s tour of Australia when Jadeja got injured. However, he did not make his Test debut there. Axar’s next call-up came in the year 2016 ahead of the iconic Chennai Test against England - where Karun Nair scored a triple century. No official announcement was made regarding his addition in the team and he was just called as a backup. Then as well, Axar was rushed to the state of Chennai a night before the game. In the morning, Jadeja was deemed fit and Axar warmed the bench. Though he came to field as a substitute fielder and during his short stay in the field, a stroke of bad luck resulted in him being dropped from the Indian team for next eight months.
Axar landed on his thumb awkwardly when trying to save a six from the bat of Liam Dawson and during the attempt, landed on his thumb and injured himself. This resulted in the left-arm spinner being ruled out of limited overs series against England and this is his first international call-up since the Chennai Test.
Will Axar make his Test debut?
(Image Credits: Associated Press)
There is no point in calling a player from a distance of more than 7000 kilometres who is enjoying a series win with the second string side, until and unless you have a surprise planned for him. The way he has been called in for the team, there are high chances of Axar becoming the 290h test player for India as if selectors had an intention to give Kuldeep Yadav his much-needed chance, they wouldn’t have called in Axar.
It is difficult to fathom why they decided to take this step? Axar, though a good spin bowler but as pointed out by legendary Sunil Gavaskar, he is not the Test bowler that you want. Test cricket is about having patience. Whether you are a bowler or a batsman, you need to be patient enough to enjoy Test cricket. A bowler should not shy away from placing six deliveries at the same area, even if being hit for a boundary whereas a batsman too can take his time to settle down, get into the rhythm and then start scoring runs.
Looking at Axar’s bowling, he does not belong to the community of traditional bowlers who are brave enough to give much flight to the ball. He looks like a bowler who is born to play limited overs cricket, where bowler’s sole aim is to keep the economy-rate under check. Bowling straight deliveries with little spin, angling towards the weak zone of the batsman and adding extra pace to the ball, these are some of the qualities of Axar Patel, which may get him wickets in the longest format of the game as but might not come in good taste to the audience, who are keen to see the real Test cricket played.
Axar’s addition may be a great move by skipper as there can be a case when he might emerge as the best bowler for India in the game and his batting abilities are a boon for any team. The question remains: is the Indian team looking at him as a long term prospect? He has 79 first-class wickets in 23 games at an average of 30.37 and his batting average of 48.45 is a sumptuous reason to add him in the squad. That said, his addition in the team would not just raise questions but might also lead to the unceremonious ignorance of Kuldeep Yadav.
Coming to the conclusion, it is Kuldeep who deserves a chance on the basis of merit. Firstly, he is the one who came to Sri Lanka as the third spinner. Secondly, he will bring in the surprise factor to bamboozle the already deflated Sri Lankan batting line-up and the third one – a personal one – Axar does not look like a Test player. He has the numbers in domestic cricket to back his case but the sheen of Test cricket might prove too much of a challenge when he steps up to bowl.