Patel savours unfamiliar England success
Samit Patel, born in Leicester but of Indian heritage, knows a bit about cricket on the subcontinent. And having taken part in ten consecutive ODI defeats with England in India, he was well placed to put into context their success in the first match of the current series in Rajkot.
England's nine-run win was their first ODI victory in India since 2006 - and even that was the blip in a 5-1 thrashing. In 2008 and 2011, on each occasion Patel was a member of the side that lost 5-0 and when England last went to Rajkot four years ago, in a match played at the old Madhavrao Scindia Stadium, they suffered a 158-run mauling. That was Patel's seventh ODI appearance, and his first experience of defeat, but it was soon to become a wearyingly repetitive one.
"I've been here for ten ODIs before and lost all ten," he said. "It's just great to get a win here. Sometimes people don't realise how much of an effort it is to beat these guys over here. They're just good players in their own back yard. They play good one-day cricket all around the world but in India they dominate spinners and they dominate cricket in general.
"On past tours here we've not even won a warm-up game. To win the first ODI in Rajkot was fantastic. We lost the first two warm-ups again so we knew how crucial it was. We knew the boys were ready but what a great win and what a great start."
Patel has forged a reputation as one of England's best players of spin - his top scores in both limited-overs formats have come on the subcontinent - but it was against India's quicks that he did the damage during the final overs at Rajkot, clubbing 44 from just 20 balls to hoist England to a defendable total. The sensation of victory, at least, should help make up for the lack of applause.
"To play India in 2008 was quite demoralising," he said. "We put up good scores and they knocked them off; they put up good scores and we got nowhere near them. As a batsman when you hit a boundary and you don't get a clap it can be a bit hurtful really. You know you've played a good shot and no one's really appreciated it. That can eat a bit under your skin but it's about how you handle it."
England have not won an ODI series in India since 1984-85, when they had their sole success, and recent tours have resembled something like a nonviolent resistance, without the same end result. But despite well-documented weaknesses against slow bowling, Alastair Cook led the one-day side to an unexpected whitewash of Pakistan in the UAE last year and followed that up with a Test series triumph in India for the first time since that same tour of '84-85. Such improvements, suggests Patel, have given the squad confidence that they can pull off another upset.
"I think the way we've learned how to play their spinners is outstanding and a credit to us as a team because in past tours we've struggled," he said. "It just shows if you put in the hard yards and you learn you get your rewards.
"The Test series win was outstanding. It took a lot of courage, a lot of desire, a lot of hard work. It is something good to be a part of and I think [the one-day squad] can achieve it if we stay calm and level headed. If we look to be positive and back our own ability then we have a good chance."