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July 25, 2014
English cricket's hunt for new spin talent has plucked out another name. Ravi Patel, the 22-year-old Middlesex left-arm spinner, has earned a place in the England Lions squad for next month's triangular series involving Sri Lanka A and New Zealand A despite just three List A matches in his career.
However, his selection has not come without some form behind it even if the structure of the English game means it is in a different format. He is Middlesex's leading wicket-taker in the NatWest T20 Blast with 15 wickets at 20.00 from 13 games with a notable economy rate of 6.12. On Thursday evening, in front of a record Lord's crowd and faced with the power-packed Surrey batting order, he returned the thrifty figures of 2 for 15.
Still, his call-up for national honours - to a squad that has even greater significance given the proximity of the World Cup - took some time to sink in for Patel who has played for Middlesex since Under-9s level. He was told by Angus Fraser, the Middlesex managing director and England selector, following a lengthy journey back to London after the recent Championship match against Yorkshire at Scarborough.
"I was about to go to bed and I got a call from Gus [Fraser]. I was a bit surprised, excited for sure - a lot of different feelings but overriding joy that I'd been picked," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I was aware that I was in with a shout but, yeah, I'm slightly surprised."
In an era when the volume of one-day cricket can drag spinners into bowling flatter and quicker - or at least with a defensive mindset - Patel, who works extensively alongside Min Patel, the former Kent and England slow left-armer, has a straightforward and refreshing outlook to his art.
"I'd like to think I'm quite an attacking spinner, I can change my pace quite a lot - especially in one-day cricket - and I think that's vital to not let the batsman settle and I just try to spin the ball. Obviously you need wickets that help you, but I like to think I give it a decent rip out of the hand and vary my pace."
That method was on display at Lord's yesterday when he was confronted by Jason Roy - a fellow Lions selection - who was intent on dispatching Patel into the stands but instead was comfortably stumped. "If someone is going hard at you then I feel I'm always in the game because it only takes one ball to do a little bit and I've got a chance to get the wicket," Patel said.
Patel's three games of longer one-day cricket have been spread over three years, starting with his debut against the Australians in 2010 followed by two Yorkshire Bank 40 outings last year. However, he is confident that he can take his Twenty20 form into the 50-over format over the next few weeks for both the Lions and Middlesex.
"I'm quite inexperienced in terms of longer one-day cricket but I've built a good run of matches in Twenty20 and in terms of bowling spin you need similar skills, I believe," he said. "I've gained a lot of confidence from doing relatively well in the T20s and if I play for the Lions I just want to bring those skills into the 50-over game and see where it takes me."
And he also views the current state of spin in the country with a glass half-full rather than glass half-empty mentality. "I think it's a great time and opportunity for all young spinners. Graeme Swann was such a great spinner and his retirement has left a big hole, and I won't be the only one saying that - I speak for all young spinners. Any opportunities we get given it's up to us to try and take them."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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