Axar Patel has deceptive flight: Salim Durani
Salim Durani was the cunning plotter and a game changer against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1971. The tall left-arm spinner who had honed his skill from Vinoo ‘Master’ Mankad at Jamnagar’s Railway ground, deceived Clive Lloyd and Garry Sobers, and India won the historic Test series in the Caribbean Islands. He varied his length a bit and got rid of the two attacking left-handers.
Now 86, and residing in Jamnagar, Durani saw the Ahmedabad Test match and has been impressed by Axar Patel’s ability to inflict telling blows on the England team.
Durani defended the home team taking advantage, especially in getting the type of pitch it wants. He says with a touch of humour: "In my house, I will cook the food I like, phir mehmaan ko kilahunga (then I will entertain the guests). It has to be like that. When we go to England, will they make pitches for us? Or when we play in Australia. Apne bachho kho apna khana kilana padega.”
On a serious note, he said about the Nadiad-born left-arm spinner: “Axar Patel bowled beautifully. Pade, pade poora match dekha (I saw the full match lying down. Now England has lost two Test matches. Axar has the height and natural spin. He is maintaining the line and length and using the crease very well. He goes off the wicket so quick, batsman ‘pareshan ho jatha hai (batsman becomes very anxious).”
Explaining Patel’s bowling a little more, Durani said: “He does not turn the ball much. He bowls wicket to wicket. He does not flight the ball. But he has the deceptive flight, because he is a tall man. That’s the reason the trajectory of the ball is high from him and that’s why he is effective.
“He lands the ball on the seam and that’s why sometimes he appears as a medium fast bowler. India has got a good bowler. The pitch was also helping him. But he showed what he can do on a helping pitch. He will find things difficult on a batting pitch. He will have to work very hard and find other ways to dismiss batsmen.”
After taking seven wickets in his debut Test in Chennai, that helped India level the series 1-1, Axar took 11 in the third and the England batsmen suffered. “Here at Motera, the bowler was good and the pitch helped him. Everything went his way. He bowled using his brain. Axar has the advantage of height. Even I took advantage of my height,” said Durani.
Playing under Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Ajit Wadekar, the Rajasthan left-arm spinning all-rounder (29 Tests, 75 wkts and 1,202 runs between 1960 and 1973) was a crowd puller. Talking about the two all-rounders, Ravindra Jadeja and Patel, Durani said: “Between the two, Ravindra (Jadeja) is a good bowler. He is the best left-arm spinner India has. Their run up (to the bowling crease) is different. Ravindra buys his wickets, Axar depends on line and length, accuracy. Axar has not played many Tests. He will definitely improve. “
Durani believes there is always a solution to deal with such quality spinners. “There is a solution, but the batsmen will have to find their own ways. They have to wait and play. They cannot attack these bowlers at will. The England top-order was unlucky to get out in the first over yesterday.”
G. Viswanath is an independent sports journalist based in Mumbai. He has been associated with The Hindu Group for over 36 years and has covered domestic, national and international cricket.