Harshal Patel has been doing everything Jasprit Bumrah usually does in the ongoing series against South Africa, but in his own way. Bowling the difficult overs – one in the powerplay, in the middle when opposing batters are looking to switch gears, regularly at the death when they go hell for leather. Like Bumrah, he is also partnering Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who himself is bowling close to his best.
But there is a difference. Patel summons his slower balls the most. That’s how he got three of the four wickets to fall at Visakhapatnam. Opener Reeza Hendricks fell failing to spot the slower ball that pitched on a good length. Even David Miller, having seen enough of Patel in the IPL, ended up playing too early. In 2021, 18 of Patel’s 30 wickets came with his dipping slower balls. The batters know it’s coming but the domestic journeyman now knows he has found a trump card late in his career, to trouble the best.
“People have been trying to anticipate for the past few years. To be honest with every bowler, the longer they play the opposition will realize what their strengths are, what their bowling patterns are and try to adapt,” Patel told reporters on Thursday. “My job is to stay ahead of them. At the end of the day, you may have fifteen different plans but if you cannot execute them in pressure situations with confidence, everything doesn’t fall in place. My focus has always been on, how do I read the game a little better in that moment. How do I execute the best possible delivery at that time.”
Not getting tempted to light up the speed gun, is a lesson the 31-year-old learned quite early.
“I cannot bowl fast like Umran Malik. So, I have to develop skills to render myself effective,” he said. “I have never been an express fast bowler, although on a given day, I can touch 140. My focus is always to develop skills around my bowling. with whatever limitations and advantages, I have and try to get wickets and win games for the team.”
After the being at the receiving end of a savage attack he and his fellow bowlers received at Delhi, Patel hopes the surface is on the slower side at Rajkot.
“It gives you a fighting chance. If you consistently play on pitches such as Delhi, it can hamper your confidence a little bit. We also have world class spinners who can bowl in any conditions, but with a slightly slower pitch and bigger ground, it brings them in to the game more.”