Just a day after being dropped from the T20 side, Axar Patel sent out a strong message, walking away with a Man of the Match performance in India’s 20-run victory over Australia. More than the wickets, it was the manner in which he got them, that would have given Axar more reasons to smile.
With Australia prepared to play out Ravi Bishnoi, they were intent on taking on Axar. Coming into the game, there was a bit of pressure on him after he had conceded 22 runs in the 19th over he had bowled in the previous match, which ended up proving costly. And on Thursday, the selectors had dropped him for the experienced Ravindra Jadeja, which now makes him a doubtful contender for the T20 World Cup in June.
“Since the first game I had been bowling well, so one-odd over for runs doesn’t give me stress. I was thinking how to bowl with my strength, even if one match you go for runs, you stick to your strengths, stay strong mentally and bowl stump to stump. I had to execute my plans and there was no point in being scared over what if he hits me,” Axar said.
For his economical match-winning three-wicket haul, Axar Patel is adjudged the Player of the Match ????????
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 1, 2023
And despite Australia coming out all guns blazing, Axar was unfazed on Friday. With Travis Head, who was in full flow, looking to target him, Axar didn’t take the easy way out. He could have just sent in the darts, instead he was bold enough to toss it up, and was slower through the air. It ultimately brought the fall of Head, which opened the game for India. From there on, he adjusted his line and trajectory to good effect to remove Ben McDermott and Aaron Hardie and return with figures of 4-0-16-3.
“The wicket I got today was off a slower ball relatively, you can’t get wickets only one way. That’s what I was thinking about in the break; these minor changes make a difference and you know how things work only when you try them out in a match,” Axar added.
For a spinner, who mostly doesn’t bowl inside the first powerplay, Friday was an exception. With Deepak Chahar and Mukesh Kumar going for runs, Suryakumar Yadav turned to Bishnoi first and then eventually had to bring in Axar in the fifth over to check the run flow. “I always love putting Axar under pressure and the way he bowled was unbelievable. Everyone expressed themselves irrespective of the situation, and that’s what I told them: be fearless, play your game and we’ll see what happens,” Yadav said.