Akshar Patel is a skinny, shy boy from Anand, a small town of Gujarat, the state he also plays cricket for. This left-arm spinning all-rounder, who created a quite the reputation for himself in the 2013-14 Indian domestic season, was awarded the Best U-19 Cricketer of the Year by BCCI. But he was still an unknown entity when it came to the masses.
Not anymore. With 14 wickets in as many matches at a parsimonious economy rate of 6.48 in the group stage of Pepsi IPL 2014, Akshar has been a big contributor to Kings XI Punjab’s journey to the Playoffs.
After yet another fine performance (4-0-28-2), in KXIP’s last league game, against Delhi Daredevils, Akshar reflected on his recent success in a chat with IPLT20.com. He spoke about his bowling game plan that has earned him the kind of success that has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Here are excerpts from his interview:
This season has been a dream for you. What’s the secret?
It has. I accept my limitations and work on my strengths. My coaches and captain have given me complete freedom, which has been a very strong platform for me to perform. Last year, when I was with Mumbai Indians, I didn’t get a chance to play. This year, it’s good to get so many chances and me proving that I deserved them. You had a great domestic season coming into the IPL that culminated with the BCCI award for the best U-19 cricketer.
It is the best phase of my career. The performances I put up at the domestic level gave me so much confidence, which I carried into this IPL. The way I have performed here has added to that confidence, mainly because I have also been able to maintain a good economy rate, which is a tough thing to do for a spinner in this format.
How have you maintained such great economy rate (6.60)?
There is always that fear of getting hit for long sixes. But I mainly try to stick to my strength of bowling the arm-ball and the quicker one. I don’t look to spin the ball or try different variations; I only concentrate on bowling a good arm-ball.
How different is your use of the arm-ball in T20s and first-class cricket?
There is a difference. In T20, the focus is more on bowling dot-balls and that’s why I use the arm-ball more often. In four-day matches, I have to try different variations, bowl slower and try to spin the ball more often, probably slipping on one arm-ball in an over. In a T20 game, since I have only four overs, I want to use my best ball as often as I can so I don’t give away too many runs. Once I do that, the wickets will come.
As a spinner, how do you react when you’re hit for a couple of big shots? Do you stick to plan A or jump to plan B?
I speak a lot to Joe Dawes about this. With him, I make a plan and a backup plan for each batsman. If I get hit for a six, I’ll see if it was a bad ball from me or a good shot from him. If I know I bowled according to the plan, I won’t bother too much and stick to it. In any format, if the batsman plays a good shot, he will get runs and you have to accept that.
How fierce is the competition in the KXIP camp for the Pepsi Emerging Player of the year award? You, Maxwell, Sandeep and Miller – all are nominated.
There is tough competition for the award, yes. I believe this little competition has helped us build a strong camaraderie within the team. The fact that we have so many young players in the race for the emerging player award also adds to the confidence of our team. After all, it shows how well and consistently we have been performing. Who is winning it right now?