England v India, 2nd ODI, Rose Bowl September 5, 2011

Parthiv to keep playing his shots

Parthiv Patel is looking the world in the eye. He's gone eyeball to eyeball with any bowler glowering on the follow through. In Chester-le-Street, he was happy to enter a staring contest when taunted by England fast bowler James Anderson. It may have looked ugly at first, but Parthiv used England's aggressive tactics to his advantage. Unfortunately, he fell five runs short of what would have been his first one-day century, but it was still his career-best score and helped India to what appeared to be a winning total before rain forced the match to be abandoned.

As they have done all through their successful summer, England's fast bowlers fired in the short-pitched stuff at Parthiv. The previous afternoon, in the nets at Durham, Parthiv had trained facing the hard new ball against such a line of attack.

In the three tour games prior to the Twenty20, Parthiv had batted in a desperate fashion. In the T20 in Manchester, he once again went charging at everything but mostly in vain. In contrast, Ajinkya Rahane showed him what a combination of a straight bat, a straight elbow and a straight head could do. Rahane finished with a scintillating 61 in his debut match, which India lost narrowly. Parthiv had departed early for 10.

In Durham, Rahane once again batted purposefully until he went chasing a short delivery from Stuart Broad. Parthiv was again watching and applauding his partner's fluent strokes, but he had realised that the pitch was on the slower side and even though it had good bounce, he had time to play his shots. So when Anderson, bowling from around the stumps, pitched short but outside the off stump, Parthiv upper cut him for four. When Anderson repeated the same delivery, Parthiv this time opened the full face of the bat at the last minute to glide it to the third man boundary.

Of his 95 runs, 75 came against the four-pronged England pace attack. Eventually, he went chasing a fuller delivery wide outside the off stump from Anderson, and the bottom edge carried to Craig Kieswetter behind the stumps. Anderson let out a laugh. Parthiv threw back his head in disgust.

"Obviously they will come hard at me with the short balls. But I've worked on it. Personally, I don't think I need to change my game at all," he said in defence of his shot-making. "I've played like that in West Indies and scored runs; I've done it in the first one-dayer here."

With Tendulkar joining India's long casualty list, India may be forced to go into Tuesday's game with only six batsmen, and Parthiv is aware that the rest of the players will have to work hard to fill the breach. "Obviously if we are playing a batsman short you need to take the responsibility," he said. "It's every individual's responsibility to make sure that if he gets in he goes on and scores big runs."

Parthiv made his debut as a wicketkeeper on India's 2002 tour of England but he has always believed he could play as a specialist batsman. "That belief kept me going. That is the reason I have been always working hard on my keeping and batting. Obviously I had age on my side - when I was dropped I was only 21 and lot of players do not even start playing at 21. So I had experience, and belief kept me going."

On this tour, there has been one other thing that has encouraged him: in every training session, Duncan Fletcher has kept a close eye on Parthiv. He has said little, but the words he has offered have built Parthiv's confidence. Many times during training over the past two weeks, Fletcher, hands in his jacket pockets, has walked up to Parthiv and started a conversation. He has taken in Parthiv's intentions and whispered a suggestion or two. What Fletcher has not done, despite the occasional unconvincing stroke, is to push Parthiv towards altering his batting. What Parthiv has taken in and what shows now at the crease, is a freedom to learn.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo