“Welcome to the club,” tweeted former India captain Anil Kumble. The red carpet wasn’t rolled out for an Indian bowler or cricketer. The honour was intended for a New Zealander.
Ajaz Patel was born in Mumbai. At the age of eight he moved to New Zealand with his parents. Twenty-five years later, he returned to his city of birth as an international cricketer to engrave his name not just on the honours board of the Wankhede Stadium but also in history books, courtesy his jaw-dropping 10/119 in India’s first innings, bowling out the hosts for 325.
In the process, Patel became only the third player after England’s Jim Laker (1956) and India’s Anil Kumble (1999) to pick all ten wickets in a Test innings.
“I remember his 10-fer. I have seen highlights of that game plenty of times,” Patel revealed after the second day’s play. “(It is a) very illustrious group to be a part of. Great to see his message and his kind words.”
The left-arm spinner had picked all the four Indian wickets that fell after a craftsman-like effort on Friday. He bowled 24 overs at a go to pick those four. Three of them – Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli – were dismissed in a space of 16 balls. The fourth was of an impressive Shreyas Iyer.
After the first day’s play, the Black Caps had posted a photo of Patel looking at the honours board at the Wankhede Stadium. Wistful? Hopeful.
“I wanted to get up (and see my name) on the honours board. I told myself yesterday that my name was going to be on the board but for it to happen there had to be something special,” Patel said as he looked back at the defining moment.
He began the second day by showcasing his wares. He first slid a quick arm ball that got Wriddhiman Saha plumb in front. On the very next ball, Patel’s guile was on show as a loopy ball went past a lunging Ravichandran Ashwin’s defence to disturb the stumps.
Mayank Agarwal and Axar Patel kept him at bay, with the former scoring 150 and the latter his maiden Test fifty. But after “almost” getting him a few times, Patel snared Agarwal after lunch on Day Two to march towards the record. Axar would then shoulder arms to an incoming ball to be ruled out LBW on review.
The record was Patel’s to be taken. Jayant Yadav had holed out to long on for his ninth and Mohammed Siraj miscued one straight in the air with Rachin Ravindra settling under it.
Patel turned around, in hope and anticipation. “It was a nervous time. We backed Rachin to take it but the ball wobbled and we were all nervous.”
Ravindra would take that catch to give Patel his tenth to bring smiles to a Mumbaikar in the opposition. “It was special that it came in Mumbai.”
Patel isn’t sure if this feat will land him an IPL gig. Heck, he doesn’t care! He prides himself in playing for New Zealand. But everybody who watched him go about his task would know they have witnessed history. Wankhede witnessed history. Mumbai witnessed history.
Patel’s love for Kiwi chocolates made it easy for him to shift to New Zealand. His knack for wickets brought him back ‘home’ to Mumbai.