Dubai: The legacy of players of Indian origin turning out for New Zealand in top flight cricket is nothing new. Ajaz Patel, the left-arm spinner who has been around for a while and young batting allrounder Rachin Ravindra are two such members of the current squad - hoping to break into the playing XI in the two-Test series which starts in Kanpur on Thursday.
Patel, the bearded spinner coached by Dipak Patel, is palpably excited to be back in the country of his birth where he was born in Mumbai and stayed there till the age of eight years. ‘‘India is India. You have got to visit the country and see the hustle and bustle - it’s about the organised chaos here,’’ said the 33-year-old from Kanpur.
A crafty bowler who has picked up 26 wickets from his nine Tests so far, Patel hasn’t bowled in first-class cricket since June due to injury but now has a bucket list - that of making it to the playing XI at least in the second Test in Mumbai. “I have been to parts of India now that I haven’t really seen before. It’s a bit of a shame that we can’t really get out and experience India but that’s the nature of the world at the moment,’’ he told New Zealand Cricket.
Talking about the challenges on bowling on Indian pitches, Patel said: “Obviously we know what India offers in terms of spin bowling but at the same time we know the challenges of facing India at home as well.’’
The conditions in the upcoming two Tests will be like chalk-and-cheese from their last meeting in the World Test Championship final in Southampton, where the Kiwis had gone in with a four-pronged pace attack as India played two spinners in Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja much against popular wisdom.
The visitors have had a look at the wicket and it’s quite likely that Patel may be operating in tandem with Will Somerville, their off-spinner. ‘‘We feed a lot off each other. While he offers height and bounce, I am more skiddy - sometimes he is attacking while sometimes I do. We thrive off the other spinners too by talking about the game.’’
Patel is apparently happy with the feel of the SG ball to be used in the India Tests. “SG ball is definitely different, quite similar to the Duke. Quite a hard ball and actually I am finding it quite nice to grip but it also offers different challenges and calls for a slightly different style of bowling,” he said.
Rachindra, now 22 and who was drafted into the New Zealand unit when Kane Williamson decided to rest from the T20 series, is the other member of the side with Indian roots - much likeir predecessors Dipak Patel, Ish Sodhi, Jeetan Patel, Jeet Raval, Ronnie Hira and Taurn Nethula.
If his first name ‘Rachin’ sounds unusual, it’s combination of the two Indian cricketing icons - Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar - coined by his engineer father who migrated to New Zealand when he was very young.
‘‘These (Rahul and Sachin) are two amazing players - two of the greatest cricketers of all time. I guess I’m embarking on my own journey, I’m my own man, so it’s awesome to take inspiration from those two,” Ravindra said in a recent chat.
During the ongoing tour, Rachin hopes to interact with Dravid, the India head coach, and Ravichandran Ashwin, and get some tips. “Dravid is an absolute legend of the game. Obviously, I would love to interact with him a bit more during this series. So if I can pick his brains, it would be amazing.
“Ashwin is a world-class spinner. He has got an incredible record and he has been around for a long time. His variations are fantastic. I would love to pick his brains too...any time.”