Free Press Journal

Cricket’s Lost Talents! Munaf Patel: How Ikhar Express got derailed


India is a country which idolises batsmen and over the years has produced many legends when it comes to batting. Indian cricket has produced very few genuine fast bowlers, and apart from Kapil Dev, one really has to dig deep to find another quality fast bowler after former Indian captain’s retirement. International cricket is a tough gig and many players have been found wanting at the highest level.

India, in the 21st century, placed extra emphasis on fast bowlers and certain pacer by the name of Munaf Patel comes to mind. Patel hailing from a small town in Bharuch, Ikhar was considered as one of the fastest bowlers to ever play for India and had the ability to bowl over 90 miles per hour on a consistent basis (rarity in Indian cricket).

Patel first came to prominence via MRF pace foundation in  Chennai when he was invited by then chairman of selectors Kiran More and also caught the eye of Sachin Tendulkar. And, from being an unknown quantity, he suddenly became a known player in such a short period of time. In hindsight, Patel was not ready when he made his first-class debut for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and playing for such a high profile team did him more harm than good. Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar in contemporary cricket bowled with extreme pace (sometimes touching 100 mph) and now India had their very own speed demon.

Patel had an economical action and used to get bounce because of his high arm action and before he could know it, he was banging on the door for Indian team. The pacer from Bharuch finally made his much-awaited debut against England in 2006 (both ODI and Test) and looked very impressive. Patel was not over coached and with his raw pace could trouble international batsmen and unsettle them.

India as a nation is very demanding and unfair and pressure build on Patel to consistently bowl fast and invariably Patel suffered a spate of injuries. This was also the era when Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan, VRV Singh were all competing for the bowing slots and under Aussie Greg Chappell’s tenure there was lots of competition for the pace bowling slots. Patel, despite being gifted with pace, had a laidback attitude and rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, not working hard on his game and showed general apathy towards fitness. When in full flow, Patel was magnificent and could trouble any team on his day, but sadly for Patel and men in blue those days were few and far between and his game couldn’t become consistent.

Here’s the video of Munaf Patel at its menacing best:

Patel has played 13 Tests and 70 ODIs and his last game was in 2011. He is only 34, but it looks like he has already played his last match for India. During the 2011 World Cup, Patel’s dopey attitude cost India the game against England at Bengaluru when Patel while running didn’t ground his bat and it cost India one run and in the end the match was tied. This incident, in a way, sums up Patel’s career and, despite being talented, he didn’t work hard on his game and gradually faded away from selection.

International cricket is very severe and cut throat and Patel only managed 125 wickets in all formats. The only consolation for Patel could be that he was part of India’s World Cup-winning squad in 2011. But, the ‘Ikhar Express’ derailed dramatically and should be taken as an example of potential not matching performance as a result of which Patel became another example of Indian cricket’s lost talents.