Midway through IPL VI, Parthiv Patel was left out of the Sunrisers Hyderabad playing XI, largely because of his perceived inability to progress beyond the teens despite getting off to numerous starts.
When he did return to the side after Akshath Reddy failed to grab his chances, Patel embarked on a mission to establish himself as a permanent member of the side, making scores of 44, 61 and 47 in three of his next five knocks to as good as nail his place down.
At the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Tuesday (September 17) night, with his team chasing an imposing 169 for victory against Kandurata Maroons in their first qualifying match in the Champions League Twenty20, Patel made an excellent half-century, linking up with Shikhar Dhawan, his captain, in a wonderful association of 121 that all but settled the issue.
It was the highest first-wicket association between Patel and Dhawan, besting the 89 they made against Kolkata Knight Riders in their final league game in IPL VI, a match Hyderabad had to win to make it to the playoffs. "Shikhar and I have played a lot of cricket together, since we went to Bangladesh together for the Under-17 Asia Cup," Patel was to say later. "From then on, we have been playing together, and we play for the same company too. When the two of us are batting, it basically depends on the day. Sometimes he gets going, and sometimes I get going. When he gets going, I look for singles and when I am going well, Shikhar tries to get singles and give me the strike."
Dhawan has been in sublime form recently, and seemed unaffected by the cares of captaincy - this was his first game as the Hyderabad skipper, and he celebrated it with a stylish 71 that set up the eight-wicket win. "Whatever he is doing with the bat, that is carrying on to his captaincy as well," said Patel. "He has been very aggressive, sometimes there were five players inside the ring. Usually, you don't see that on a flat wicket like this. He is going through a purple patch and the way he has been carrying himself has been fantastic.
"Obviously, he is in prime form. You can make out from the other end, and even in practice, you can see how well he is hitting the ball. He is just carrying on the good form. It's very important for us that he does so, he is playing really well."
In a tournament format such as this, with three matches in four days, it was essential to begin well, Patel stressed. "In Twenty20 cricket, momentum makes a huge difference," he observed. "Even in the IPL, if you see, when teams start winning, they win four-five games on the trot. And in a tournament like this, the games are very cramped. If you keep winning, the teams will be in a good mental space.
"During the break, we thought they got 10-12 runs more than they should have, but I thought 170 was a par score on this wicket. I felt if we got a good start, we could always win this game because we've got firepower down the order. We saw how Thisara (Perera) batted and we had Darren Sammy to go as well. We wanted to ensure we got 40-45 in the first six overs and then build it up from there."
Tuesday's match was dominated by left-hand batsmen, with Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne making fifties for Kandurata and Hyderabad replying in kind through Patel and Dhawan. "It is a tradition with Sri Lankan sides, isn't it, that you have a lot of lefties coming in," said Patel. "Even in this side, they had a fair few. Obviously, Sangakkara is a class player and Thirimanne has been doing well for Sri Lanka as well. Shikhar is doing well, I have had a good IPL, it was important to keep going. It was good to get a win at the start."
The presence of those many left-handers was primarily why Dhawan used Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma, the two leg-spinners who made such an impact on IPL VI, very sparingly. Mishra sent down just one over while Karan didn't get even that. "That was the main thing - the left-handers, and the wicket as well," stressed Patel. "We felt the wicket was not assisting the spinners as much. But mainly, there were so many left-handers in the game, we decided to give our faster bowlers more of a bowl."