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I’m different from classical left-arm spinners: Axar Patel | Cricket News – Times of India

October 10, 2021

In an exclusive interview, Delhi Capitals’ Axar Patel talks to TOI about proving critics wrong, sticking to his strengths & why he is a more mature version of himself heading into the T20 World Cup.
At the outset, there’s nothing fancy about Axar Patel. Yet, there’s something that enables him to be a consistent performer – be it for Delhi Capitals in the IPL or in the limited opportunities he has had to play for India.
Along with Ravindra Jadeja, he has been the face of the flat-round-armed left-arm spinning revolution in Indian cricket. His uncanny similarities with Jadeja, earned him the nickname ‘Bapu’ from MS Dhoni.
“The nickname Bapu is very popular in Saurashtra. When I replaced Jaddu bhai, Mahi bhai said I am also a similar left-arm spinner and a left-handed batter from Gujarat. He said calling ‘Axar’ while cheering from behind the stumps wasn’t much fun. Thus, he started calling me ‘Bapu’ because Jaddu bhai is from Saurashtra. And once Mahi bhai said it on the stump mic, my name had to be Bapu. Rishabh has taken it another level on the stump mic,” Axar bursts into a laughter.
Now that he is gearing up for the IPL playoffs and the subsequent T20 World Cup in UAE, the ever-smiling 27-year-old spoke about his journey.
You hardly had a bad match since last year. How did this consistency come about?
I have become more confident. I made my Test debut on the basis of my last IPL. I did well in Tests too. And I am carrying that forward. We have Amit Mishra in the Delhi Capitals bench. There’s Ashwin. It’s competitive. I push myself to ensure I secure my place and that I am not the guy to be dropped if the team is thinking of making changes or getting a leg-spinner in.
You say Ricky Ponting has played a big role…
Last year, he took me aside and told me I am one of the main players in the Capitals team. Now that I have done well, he keeps reminding me what he said and that I should stick to what I have been doing. And the best thing about Ricky is that it doesn’t matter to him if you are an international player. That’s why we trust him so much.
How is it like bowling with Ashwin?
Ash is a man with a different kind of mindset. He is more academic. If I had half the skills as he does, I would do much better. I try to pick how his mind works in different situations. He has different plans for every batter. Bahut hi deep thinking karta hain. (He thinks really deep). I talk to him about how to deal with a batter who is picking me really well. I don’t ask him to teach the variations he has. We talk more about setting the field and mindset.
Both you and Jadeja are a departure from the classical left-arm spinners. Acceptance was an issue even from former cricketers…
This is a very important issue for me and others to follow. Jaddu and I didn’t flight the ball much and the critics slammed us saying we bowled only one type of delivery. That was the toughest phase for me. Even my friends and people from my academies kept telling me I know nothing other than bowling flat. I was criticized whenever I had an off day. I heard a lot of taunts. Then I analysed myself and felt that nobody likes the way I bowl and yet I played for India and did well in IPL. That meant there’s something special about me. I got selected because I was different from other left-arm spinners. Then I decided to not pay heed to others’ opinions and stuck with what I did. Then I brought about variations in pace and I got success. I am skillful enough to land the ball on the right spot even if you wake me up at three in the morning. People fail after making the grade because they stop backing their strengths and try to develop every skill.
You were even in the 2015 World Cup team. But you get to play only when there’s an injury…
I work very hard on motivating myself. I play every match as if it’s my last match. I can’t be thinking as a selector. That’s not my job. It’s difficult when you are sitting out for long periods of time. But travelling with the Indian team keeps you ready. Even in the recent England tour, we were doing well and the matches were close. We were all involved in the series. I don’t follow what’s happening on social media and those memes. I have warned my family and friends that if they share any negative thoughts with me, I’ll block them.
How much have you changed from the 2015 World Cup to 2021 T20 World Cup?
I haven’t changed much. I have improved my skills. I have worked on pace variations and batting has got better. I have become stronger mentally after the injury setbacks. I am more mature than 2015.
The T20 World Cup starts within a week after the IPL playoffs. How much are you and Capitals captain Rishabh Pant thinking about the World Cup?
The World Cup is definitely in the back of our minds but we haven’t spoken much about it. The IPL playoffs is the best preparation because in IPL, most of your rivals in the World Cup will be there. Rishabh and I have the same mindset. We don’t think too far and worry about outside noise. We know we will be putting pressure on ourselves if we obsess about planning for the World Cup.
How happy is Axar Patel right now?
(Blushes and then composes himself) When you start playing cricket seriously, your dream is to play and perform for India. The trick is how you motivate yourself after you have played for India. There should always be something new that motivates you. I have been playing for India for some time but ICC events like the World Cups and WTC final are the real deal. So, I always aspired to play in such big tournaments. Being part of the WTC final and the T20 World Cup has made me happy. But it’s important to remain balanced after getting selected and not try too hard.

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