"I have worked hard on my batting. I knew that to play a big innings, I had to play straight. So I practised a lot with plastic balls, and that paid off," says the 23-year old Patel in an interview to the Indian Express.
The photograph of the chubby faced debutant Parthiv Patel walking through a guard of honour after saving a Test against England in 2002 is still preserved in the wicketkeeper's album.
It was a moment that was to live on for years. But, ironical as it may be, the architect of that euphoric script slowly began to fade away from public memory. Thrown into the grind of domestic cricket after a series of bloopers, he was suddenly playing to empty stands. Then in 2006, he made a comeback into the Indian team touring Pakistan, and was dropped subsequently. He says that was the toughest time of his career. "I was quite low then. I didn't feel like going to the ground. But I quickly picked myself up. My family was a big source of support," Parthiv says.
Time to shine
After some good performances in Ranji season, he knew the IPL was an opportunity to showcase what he has been doing away from the limelight. And the two fifties through the tournament, including a match-winning knock in the semi-final, and a 38 in the final showed that Parthiv the batsman was still very much alive. In his early days, he played his strokes mostly on square of the wickets. But, as was evident in the IPL, his array is much wider now. And the wagon-wheel covering all sides of the park, he says, is the difference.
"I have worked hard on my batting. I knew that to play a big innings, I had to play straight. So I practised a lot with plastic balls, and that paid off," the 23-year old says, back home before he leaves for Australia, captaining for the Emerging Players's Tournament.
Cricket can be unforgiving to 'keepers. The list of Indian stumpers who have come and gone - Sameer Dighe, Saba Karim, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra - is too long to escape Parthiv's notice. While batsmen and bowlers often get another chance, wicketkeepers somehow seem to disappear once they are dropped.
"That is obviously because there is place for only one in the team. Fortunately, I have at least been in the selectors's scheme of things. I've always been in the zonal team or India A or in Challengers," he says.
Keeping it simple
But despite the evolved role of the wicketkeeper with changed dynamics of the game, Parthiv likes to keep the picture clear in his head. "When you are keeping, you are expected to do the best job. And when you are batting, you are supposed to be a pure batsman," he says. The stumper says the IPL stint has been huge. "I am much more confident now. For the first time after being dropped from the Indian team, I played against world-class attack."
The route to the national team might still not be as clear, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni almost a certainty for now, but Parthiv says he just wants to enjoy this period of success. "I don't want to think about selection and take unnecessary pressure. I am just enjoying my game."