Rajat Patidar feels destiny’s play, but sticks to the present
Two surgeries, rejection at IPL auction and then a century, the Madhya Pradesh batter has seen it all. He gets a fresh chance with the ODI team in South Africa
Life can throw a curveball in many forms. And Rajat Patidar has experienced a range of emotions that professional sport can subject one to. Going from being an IPL auction-reject to a fortuitous injury replacement and scoring an eye-catching hundred for RCB. An India call-up followed, but he didn’t get a game and then was sidelined by surgery.
The Madhya Pradesh batter from Indore though had signed up to take the rough with the smooth the day he chose cricket over a successful family business. Grinding it out through the pain of rehabilitation following an Achilles tendon surgery, the 30-year-old has worked his way back to the national side with his selection for the upcoming ODI series in South Africa.
“Ab thoda bahut believe karta hu destiny main (Now, I believe in destiny a bit),” he says. Just out of the ice-bath at the Brabourne Stadium after helping Madhya Pradesh to another win in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament, Patidar adds, “I try not to think too much into what’s written in destiny. I try to stay in the present.”
The mantra has helped the right-handed stroke-player stay focused.
“It feels very good to get another chance with the India set up after the surgery,” he says. The last time Patidar was with the Indian team - at home against South Africa last year – he didn’t get a game. The series too went unnoticed with the focus on India’s T20 World Cup campaign in Australia.
The build-up to another T20 World Cup has started. But these days there’s always an ICC tournament in the pipeline. After the T20 World Cup in June next year, it will be about the Champions Trophy in February 2025. Patidar though does not want to think much about cementing his place.
There’s never a good time for injury. A heel surgery kept Patidar out of this year’s IPL, denying the chance to build on last year’s heroics. The batter had also scored a match-winning century in Madhya Pradesh’s Ranji Trophy final win over Mumbai in 2021.
RCB initially had no place in the playing eleven for Patidar in IPL 2022 after he was drafted in, which left him dejected. After getting a chance, he very much played the aggressor, giving Virat Kohli time to get into his innings. “Before the hundred (112* off 54 balls vs LSG), I had scored 52 against GT. That’s when I felt maybe I can score a hundred in IPL. I had said that to our coach Sanjay Bangar. I was getting out in the 12th over. I knew if I chose the bowlers more smartly, I would be able to do it,” he says.
The injury meant he has played only 12 IPL games.
The key to T20 success for an all-format batter, says Patidar, is mastering the change in bat speed required. “In a day match, I have to cut down on my bat speed. My natural game is slightly attacking. But I rely more on timing. I try to understand my game and play accordingly. Shot selection is something I visualise and analyse a lot before changing formats,” he says. “From watching top players one thing I have learnt is that the consistent players never have to change their game too much in T20. They back their cricketing shots and find a way to score.”
After being on the domestic circuit for eight years, what the IPL experience has taught Patidar is the tactical game sense for T20 cricket. That’s what he will lean on when he tries to create a space for himself next season in a star-studded RCB batting line-up, further bolstered with Australia all-rounder Cameron Green coming in.
BATTING WITH PAIN
Patidar has never had it all that easy. Currently, he’s having to adjust to batting with pain on the long road to full recovery from surgery. “It’s the main tendon in the body and takes a year-and-a-half to heal completely. It’s been 6-7 months so far. The doctor has told me that I can play and the heel with slowly get used to the ground conditions. There is some pain. But I had played for three years with pain (before surgery). So, I know I can manage,” he says.
“It plays on your mind initially when you enter the crease before your body has warmed up; once it does, you don’t feel that much.” From a previous ACL tear, Patidar knows patience is the key when it comes to injury rehab.
If tactical learnings come from IPL and technical education from his home coach Amay Khurasiya, the former Madhya Pradesh batter, Patidar is learning life-skills from MP head coach, Chandrakant Pandit.
“He’s made so many players over the years. Do teen laddap-vappad khaake, bahut kuch seekha hai unse (learnt a lot from his tough coaching ways). He helps you to raise your game. I have learnt how to think about the game in great detail from him, and on thinking right, off-the-field.”
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