'Don't want to be just a limited-overs player' - Axar Patel
Axar Patel's performance in Twenty20 cricket, especially in the 2014 IPL, had been the catalyst for an ODI debut within two years of his first List A appearance. The 21-year old allrounder's next goal is to break into the Indian Test and T20 teams as well.
"World Twenty20 is the main target since it's a World championship and India will be hosting it. But if I can get selected for the Test series against South Africa, it will be a huge achievement," Axar told ESPNcricinfo. "I have played in ODIs so far, if I can earn the India cap in the remaining two formats this season, it would be a great reward.
"Even though I didn't feature in the Test squad for the Bangladesh tour, I am working hard on earning the Test cap. I don't want to be tagged as a limited-overs cricketer. I want to establish myself in all three formats of the game. That would make me a complete cricketer. So earning a Test cap would be the biggest achievement, I hope it would come soon."
Axar will join the rest of the India squad for a two-day training camp in Kolkata ahead of their departure to Dhaka on Monday.
In IPL 2014, his left-arm spin secured 17 wickets, cost only 6.13 per over and earned the boy from Nadiad, a small town in Gujarat an hour's drive away from Ahmedabad, the Emerging Player of the season award. A first India call-up and an international debut followed when India had visited Bangladesh in June last year.
He followed that with impressive outings in home series against West Indies and Sri Lanka and became a contender to make the World Cup squad. Prior to that, he was picked as cover for the injured Ravindra Jadeja for the Australia Tests.
Things went downhill after that though. Axar found a place in the 15-man side for the World Cup, but did not play a single game. A budding allrounder, he went through a form slump with the bat during the tri-series in Australia that preceded the World Cup. That bad patch, however, was part of a learning curve for Axar.
"When things weren't going my way, especially while batting in the ODIs, the manner in which the whole squad stood behind me taught me that come what may, you have to keep backing yourself," he said.
"All the coaching staff and senior players gave me the confidence that one bad match doesn't mean you are a bad player. When you are selected for India, you are special and you have to trust your abilities. One good ball by the bowler or a patch of bad form doesn't make you a bad cricketer."
IPL 2015 didn't turn out as good. Axar managed 13 wickets at an average 30.15 and an economy rate of 8.40 while his team Kings XI Punjab finished bottom of the table.
"I knew that the batsmen will try and target me," he said. "Most teams try and target the main bowler of a team, so I was prepared for that. But I feel when I was introduced into the attack, the momentum had already been with the batting side most of the time.
"It was obviously easier for the batsmen to attack me. But at the most, I conceded at the odd boundary every over. Otherwise I managed to restrict most of the batsmen to singles. But when there isn't a bowling partnership, I knew I was handicapped. When runs are being scored in heaps from the other end, it becomes a lot difficult to contain the batsmen."
All through the IPL, Axar kept going back to the advice of India captain MS Dhoni during his stint with the national side.
"I spoke a lot with Mahi bhai. He would help me improve bowling in match situations. He would make me understand a batsman's mindset at different times in an innings and help me set fields that would force the batsman to play according to my plans. He let me express myself and then trap a batsman with a specific field, even in the nets."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo