ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Australia v Canada, Group A, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
Hiral Patel's timeless moment
The Canada batsman may well fade into oblivion after this World Cup, but his back-foot six off a 145kph Shaun Tait thunderbolt will be part of drunken pub conversations for years to come
Sriram Veera at the Chinnaswamy Stadium
March 16, 2011
Sometimes, we freeze an entire career of a batsman into a solitary frame of action. Kris Srikkanth's timeless square drive on a bent knee off Andy Roberts, Javed Miandad's last-ball six, Doug Walters' six off the last ball of the day to bring up a Test hundred, and Tamim Iqbal rushing down the track to lash Zaheer Khan over long-on during the 2007 World Cup. There are some shots that get tattooed on your brain forever.
And sometimes, just sometimes, a batsman might just be remembered for a single shot. Vikram Rathour, a very fine domestic player, never made it in international cricket, but in a mindless game in Sharjah, he played a stroke that made even Sachin Tendulkar, the non-striker at the time, turn to look at the trajectory of the ball with astonishment. It was the last ball of an over from Shaun Pollock, and Rathour leaned forward a touch and wafted his bat on the up and through the line of a short-of-length delivery and the ball went screaming over long-on.
On Wednesday, Hiral Patel had one such priceless moment, which a fan may bring up in some drunken chat in some pub in the future. It was a sizzling knock from Patel, filled with cuts and drives, but one shot screamed out for attention from posterity. It was a 148.5kph thunderbolt from Shaun Tait that bounced short of a length. It demanded respect, but it got insouciance. Patel just leaned back, lifted the front leg in the air and absolutely thumped it on the up and over cover for a mind-blowing six.
It was ballsy, impish and had a dash of an innocent arrogance that can only come from an amateur teenager. It was a shot of a lifetime, and probably will be so in the case of Patel, as Canada might disappear from the World Cup map if the ICC keeps out the Associates from the 2015 edition, and who knows what Patel will be doing in four years' time.
What makes the Patel moment almost magical is the context. Here is a 19-year-old kid from the cricketing backwaters of Canada, facing the fiery fast men of the World champion side. Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson can make strong men go weak in the knees, but this kid was merrily thumping them.
It brought back memories of a completely contrasting player, the defensive David Steele, who was plucked out of anonymity by the England captain Tony Grieg at the age of 33 to face Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. He wore steel-rimmed spectacles, nearly lost his way while walking out to the middle on debut at Lord's, and stirred a nation's imagination by defending the hostile men with aplomb. The Sun's Clive Taylor hailed him as "The bank clerk who went to war". Patel could well be the kid who went to war.
For 58 minutes, the kid stunned the grown-up men from Australia. In 45 balls, he experienced what he might never feel again: what it is like to be a conqueror of a fiery attack. Apart from that six off Tait, there was a serene shot that stood out among the adrenaline-fuelled gems. Lee had just nailed him with a sharp bouncer, which he just about managed to evade with a weak waft. That reaction made you lean forward in the seat to catch the next-ball action. Is Patel mentally strong enough to handle the next delivery? Would he retreat back, if not back away?
Lee too, it seems, was thinking on those lines, for he hurled the next delivery fuller and straighter to catch the batsman by surprise. Patel strode forward - it was the maximum he stretched on the front foot in the entire cameo - and creamed it through the covers. It said so much about the plucky kid. He went on to even hook Lee for a six.
The knock drew a lot of praise from Ricky Ponting, who even threw in a reference to Virender Sehwag. "He was savage on us. If you look at someone like Sehwag, he plays a pretty similar way to what [Patel] played today," Ponting said. "Looking at the way he plays, he's a fairly unusual sort of player in the fact that he scored probably 90% of his runs in the one area today, which was around the point, backward point area. The new ball swung a bit, which offered him a little bit of room, and that was all he needed. He accepted the room and he hit some amazing shots at the top of the innings.
Ponting, though, did say that part of the early shock his team suffered was due to a lack of knowledge of the opposition. "We didn't know a lot about him [Patel]. We didn't know a lot about a lot of their players, from the fact that we haven't played against a lot of them and we didn't have a lot of footage on a lot of their players either. The notes and everything we had was more about their careers stats and a few clippings on things they'd done in this tournament. We probably didn't bowl as well as we needed to."
Even Patel's dismissal brought a smile to your face. When he was going hammer and tongs, a couple of us journalists looked up his profile on ESPNcricinfo, written by a Canadian journalist Faraz Sarwat. It ended with this gem: "When it works it can be spectacular, but there is always the danger that Patel's innings won't amount to too much more than giving catching practice to the fielder stationed at deep third man." That is followed by a quote from the former Canada captain Sunil Dhaniram, "Hiral loves to play the cut over third man. It's his favourite shot, but he needs to be careful, though, about when he plays it". Soon, out in the middle, Hiral slashed a cut against Shane Watson and the ball settled in the palms of a fielder stationed, where else, but third man.
By then, though, the boy who was born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a state in India, and currently lives in Canada, had unfurled a memorable knock and a dreamy shot that will stand the test of time.
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