I batted the way I wanted, says Axar Patel
He had planned how to tackle spin on turning tracks against Australia, but was pleased after coming good on a slow Ahmedabad pitch with Virat Kohli.
With 84 runs in the first Test in Nagpur, 74 in the second in Delhi and 79 in the fourth on Sunday, Axar Patel has proved India’s most consistent batter in the series against Australia. While he had been chipping in with useful knocks, Axar has surpassed expectations in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, where he averages 88.
While adapting to the treacherous pitches at Nagpur and Indore was impressive, his leading the batting fightback in Delhi was crucial in India’s win. Axar started the series as the third spinner, behind R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. But it is as a left-handed batter that he has shone, in a side missing Rishabh Pant due to injury.
Ahead of the series though, he devised a gameplan against spinners.
“When we started with the camp in Nagpur, we knew we will be playing on turning tracks. I didn't plan much but did my own study for playing on spinning tracks. I prepared myself to stand on leg-stump to keep a check on possible LBWs and stumpings since they can happen on turning tracks. I also planned to not step out much against off-spinners. I was getting myself ready for these things,” Axar said after playing another superb hand on Day 4.
Sunday’s 79 was on a slow track at the Narendra Modi Stadium. On a surface where even Virat Kohli struggled for strokeplay, Axar blasted five fours and four sixes in a blazing 113-ball knock, raising 168 runs with Kohli to help India take a 91-run first-innings lead.
“Once we (Axar and Kohli) got set, bowlers weren't getting much assistance off the pitch too. Once I got set, I was connecting deliveries which were in my radar.”
With his maiden Test century in sight though, Axar chopped a Mitchell Starc delivery on to the stumps trying to hit on the rise away from the body. It was the third time he had frittered away the chance to score a hundred.
“The way I was batting... and I know the chances I have missed don't come often. Bade run karne the (should have scored big). The positive thing is I batted the way I wanted to and we had a good partnership when the team needed. I am not thinking too much about it (missing a century) right now. I will feel it more when I get back to the room.”
The Gujarat player knows the Motera track well. Early inroads into Australia’s second innings will be key to getting a win on the last day.
“It's cricket, anything can happen anytime. If we get 2-3 wickets early tomorrow, they might play defensive under pressure. It's (pitch) not like it was in the first three matches that we can just go and run over them. You have to work hard, stay patient and keep bowling in the right areas.”