‘I know my role and I just stick to that’

‘It doesn’t bother me whether I am in the limelight or not.’
‘I only believe in playing the role the team has given me and I am satisfied with that.’

Axar Patel doesn’t hog the limelight.

The left-arm spinner has been most consistent for the Delhi Capitals this IPL 2020, but would rather let his performances speak for him.

Such has been his control with the ball that he was not hit for a six in the first six IPL 2020 games he played though he has bowled a lot in the Powerplay overs — something which Kagiso Rabada, Jasprit Bumrah, Rashid Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal can’t boast of.

Axar conceded 128 runs in the 23 overs he has bowled, while claiming six wickets.

The 26-year-old Gujarat spinner, who was retained by the Delhi Capitals after being bought for Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) ahead of last season, says he only focusses on the role he has been given by the team, which is to block one end up.

And even though his role might not get him the plaudits that DC wicket-takers like Rabada or Ravichandran Ashwin walk away with, his contribution has not gone unnoticed by the Delhi camp including Head Coach Ricky Ponting.

“I always try to bowl as many dot balls as possible and build the pressure on the batsmen,” Axar, speaking from the UAE, tells Rediff.com‘s Harish Kotian.

Axar, you were bought by the Delhi Capitals for Rs 5 crore in 2019 and retained for this season. Was it a huge confidence booster to be retained because the IPL can be unforgiving and teams lose patience easily?

Obviously, when continuously play for one franchise, then it is a big confidence booster. It shows that the franchise trusts you and the captain also trusts you.

When you are in the first year with any new team, then you are constantly thinking that you have to do well and impress everyone. So once you get that trust and you are retained, then things become easier.

You are the most economical bowler in IPL 2020. What has been the key to your impactful performance with the ball?

I don’t think too much I have to do this or do that like try some new variation. I am only focusing on the basics.

Also, I am not thinking about what the batsman is going to do, I am only focused on my bowling.

I don’t think too much that if I bowl this delivery, then the batsman could play this shot, I am just thinking about my bowling and nothing else.

I looking to bowl to my strengths. If still the batsman manages to get the better of me, then I will give him full points.

And when I bowl, I constantly think about how I can build the pressure by not giving away singles easily.

In T20 cricket, if you build the pressure, then you know the batsmen will try something new and could lose his wicket.

So, I always try to bowl as many dot balls as possible and build the pressure on the batsmen.

 

You kept Virat Kohli quiet. You had 10 dot balls out of 17 deliveries bowled to him while conceding just 14 runs during the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
How satisfying is it when you get things right against players like Kohli or Shane Watson or Aaron Finch?

As I said, I don’t think about which batsman I am bowling to or what he is going to do. I am only focused on my bowling.

And if I can keep the top batsmen quiet and build some pressure, then it boosts my confidence and I enjoy my bowling even more.

I always look to bowl to my strengths and not try any new variations.

Just because it is T20 cricket, sometimes you feel the batsmen have played you enough and will read you easily. It is not like that, you need to stick to your strengths.

When I come up with performances like these, it encourages me even more to keep focusing on my basics.

And by sticking to that formula, if I can keep some of the top batsmen quiet, then I know things certainly are working for me at the moment.

Ravichandran Ashwin said after the match against RCB in which you took 2-18 from four overs: ‘He always goes under the radar because he bowls good overs, builds the pressure for someone else to capitalise the wickets.’
Are you someone who enjoys just doing your work quietly and not worry about being in the limelight?

I am not someone who keeps thinking that I have to be in the limelight, like I have to provide the breakthrough for the team.

I know my role in the team and I just stick to that.

I know my strengths. I am not the type of bowler, whom they will use as a wicket-taking option.

My role is to build the pressure and if I do that, then it help me to take wickets or some other bowler will get the wickets.

It doesn’t bother me whether I am in the limelight or not. I only believe in playing the role the team has given me and I am satisfied with that.

You were dropped for a game when Ashwin came back into the team, but you got a lifeline when Amit Mishra was ruled out of the IPL.
Are you happy to have repaid the trust shown by the team management?
Do you discuss spin bowling with Ashwin? What has been his advice?

Ashwin is such a great bowler. He is such a great thinking bowler, he has so many variations and he knows exactly when to use each variation.

I discuss with him what his thought process is when he is bowling, like if some batsman is attacking him, then what is going on his mind.

Even during practice sessions, we discuss about bowling in certain situations. Communication has been our big plus point even when playing matches.

We enjoy bowling in partnership. He also bowls tight and I also do the same, so that builds the pressure from both ends, forcing the batsmen to take risks.

We both plan during the meetings on how to bowl to certain batsmen after analysing their strengths and weakness.

So it is a big learning experience for me being with someone like Ashwin.

What kind of preparation did you undertake before coming to the UAE for the IPL? How did you prepare for the conditions in UAE? Did you make any changes to your bowling?

I did’t make much of a change in bowling. I have made certain changes in my mindset because you know that the grounds here are bigger than in India except Sharjah, so you can bowl without the fear of getting hit for sixes.

And that helps you bowl positively because you can give the ball more flight and tempt the batsmen into playing the lofted shots.

So keeping all this in mind, I practiced for this year’s IPL in the UAE by varying the speed of my bowling. I could bowl a bit slower and in between could try out my stock ball and it has all worked.

Tell us about the impact of Ricky Ponting as coach. Delhi Capitals look unstoppable. What has been the key to your smashing start in the IPL?

He has made a big impact. The type of coach he is, he keeps everyone on the same page.

He will never give a particular player or players credit for the victory, rather he believes in working as a team.

He will always say that we won as a team. Even when we lose he will never blame anyone but always say that we lost as a team.

If you see that in the team atmosphere, everyone is contributing towards the team’s sake and playing as one unit.

His communication skills are very good. If he leaves out some player, he will explain to that player why he has been left out.

Communication is Ricky Ponting’s big strength. Whenever he speaks at a team meeting or in a team huddle, everyone gets so charged up just by listening to him.

A coach’s work is to keep the players motivated and charged up at all times. That is the best quality in Ponting as the coach.

If you see how we performed under last year and this year, you can see the impact he has had on the Delhi Capitals.

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