David Hopps
David Hopps David HoppsRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
UK editor, ESPNcricinfo

Sri Lanka v England 2011-12

Samit Patel's Sri Lankan sauna test

In the sapping heat of Galle and Colombo, a certain portly player might be about to discover whether he has the stuff to become an England Test cricketer

David Hopps

March 24, 2012

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Samit Patel is enjoying his role at No. 7 for England, Abu Dhabi, February, 14, 2012
Samit Patel's Sri Lankan sauna comes with palm trees and an ocean view © Getty Images
Enlarge

Samit Patel will already have come to regard Sri Lanka as his personal sauna. Instead of a simple pine-stripped room, his sauna comes with palm trees and an ocean view, but the effect will be much the same. It is here, in the sapping heat of Galle and Colombo, that Patel might be about to discover whether he has the stuff to become an England Test cricketer.

April on the west coast of Sri Lanka is the most draining of months and April is almost upon us. Humidity levels soar before the south-west monsoon, and many of Colombo's wealthier citizens head for the hills in search of relief. By the time England reach Colombo for the second Test, April will be well and truly biting.

Any England fan trying to jog around Galle Fort's ramparts is likely to be picked off the ground with a suction pump. Even those who have had a lifetime's resistance to air-con are lolling in the boutique hotels along the coast and wondering whether a little relief might be in order.

Dare England really fling Patel into such a demanding situation, where merely to raise an eyebrow can cause a rivulet of sweat to head off in a different direction? Patel is an accomplished cricketer but is he a resilient one? He has been one of England's most rounded batsmen on Asian pitches in the past year, but he has been rounded, too, in terms of body shape and a five-day Test in Sri Lanka would test his fitness levels to the utmost.

There are many ways in which England can include Patel in Galle and just as many reasons for overlooking him. Praise him as an in-form batsman with a decent method against spin, accentuate the value of his left-arm slows; if you want him badly enough he gets in the side. He could play in a team of five specialist batsmen or six. He could be preferred to Bell or Bopara, Swann or Panesar. Most persuasively, he could be the fifth-bowler insurance in a four-strong attack. In another convoluted theory about England's best XI, his fate can be linked with Tim Bresnan. It all comes down to whether Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, captain and coach, want him involved.

 
 
In Nottingham, they like to say that Patel throws right-handed, bats left-handed and eats with both hands. He will never quite lose an element of self-delusion which allows him to talk proudly of his fitness drive while stopping at the shop to buy a Mars bar. Now what he yearns to grab with both hands is a Test debut
 

Arjuna Ranatunga, the most combative of Sri Lankan captains, the man who led them to their World Cup victory in 1996, would never have found favour in the disciplined, fitness-conscious world supervised by Flower, but somehow he survived the heat, often irritating England by walking his runs and positioning himself strategically in the field so that chasing the ball was a rare occurrence. Duleep Mendis, another former captain, who led Sri Lanka to their first Test series victory in 1985, was also a batsman of comfortable shape. Patel will look upon their success and find hope.

They had no embarrassment about walking their runs. England players are taught to push hard, to turn singles into twos. In Sri Lanka, in the long game, that is viewed as suicidal. The tendency is to stroll a single or bash a four. Five-day Tests are about physical survival. It might just be that Patel subconsciously knows this and has the game to suit.

But Sri Lankans are taught from birth how to preserve energy in such heat: Patel was born in Leicester. On the more rural Sri Lankan cricket grounds, spectators will look for the shade of a coconut tree. They sit in line, like Olympic rowers, so that all of them benefit from the shade provided by the trunk of the tree, and as the shade slowly moves like the hands of a clock, they move too.

Unlike Ranatunga and Mendis, batting is only part of Patel's role. If he wins a place at No. 6, it will be because his left-arm spin can help to balance the England side. England expect Test hundreds from their batsman at No. 6, not useful 30s. The demands on Patel, who has never before played a five-day match, would be never-ending. And, unlike Sri Lanka's last Test in Galle against Australia, when the pitch was underprepared in a failed attempt to help the home spinners, the groundsman, Jayananda Warnaweera, insists the match will last into the fifth day this time.


Samit Patel during fielding practice at the Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, March 12, 2012
In the UAE, Samit Patel took two diving catches that would surely have passed him by a year earlier © Getty Images
Enlarge

Conservationists are pressing for protection for the elephant in Sri Lanka. Pink elephants are even rarer, but they are what Tim Munton once saw bowling for England A in Colombo in the early '90s. Munton played just two Tests but he was regarded as a county workhorse at Warwickshire. After five overs his legs wobbled, he became disoriented and was laid out in the dressing room and put onto a drip. One of England's stoutest batting performances in back-to-back Tests came from Graham Thorpe in Kandy and Colombo, when Nasser Hussain's England side won in Sri Lanka in 2001. As England celebrated a series victory built on discipline and bloody-mindedness, Thorpe barely had the energy to turn on his PlayStation.

Patel is in Sri Lanka as recognition for his assertive batting in ODIs in Asia over the past year, the only batsman to have achieved that apart from Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen. He is also a little bit fitter and slimmer, although the last time it was revealed his bleep-test rating, a much-improved 12, was still slightly below the 12.5 that England normally regard as an acceptable minimum. There is no doubt, though, that his approach has improved, and that in the UAE he took two diving catches, at short extra and short midwicket, that would surely have passed him by a year earlier.

His fitness drive last winter even included some time in Australia, in a Brisbane gym run by a Thai kick-boxing champion, Shannon "Shaggy" King. He was given 15km runs in 35°C temperatures and asked to bat with a 12kg bat, more than four times the normal weight, while weighed down by a 10kg weight vest.

In Nottingham, they like to say that Patel throws right-handed, bats left-handed and eats with both hands. He will never quite lose an element of self-delusion which allows him to talk proudly of his fitness drive while stopping at the shop to buy a Mars bar. Now what he yearns to grab with both hands is a Test debut. It could be time for England to find out the truth.

Edited by Abhishek Purohit

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

RSS Feeds: David Hopps

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 27, 2012, 20:08 GMT)

@CaptSK on (March 26 2012, 13:11 PM GMT) Lovely little story there. Well done

Posted by JG2704 on (March 27, 2012, 20:05 GMT)

@ Cricket_theBestGame on (March 26 2012, 04:11 AM GMT) Can see both sides. If all the other players are made to work hard on their fitness etc then it could cause resentment in the camp if one or 2 are being let off.Obviously SP is fit enough acc to the powers that be. We also have Monty in the side who is no springbok either.

Posted by Wolfpac on (March 26, 2012, 18:01 GMT)

Arjuna Ranatunga, the most combative of Sri Lankan captains, the man who led them to their World Cup victory in 1996, would never have found favour in the disciplined, fitness-conscious world supervised by Flower, but somehow he survived the heat, often irritating England by walking his runs and positioning himself strategically in the field so that chasing the ball was a rare occurrence.

I laughed out loud at this, good ol Arjuna casually walking his single was a sight. But, remember he was also a quick runner between wickets when its necessary. He can sprint suprisingly fast

Posted by Subu on (March 26, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

Well, it should had been titled England's Sauna test and not just Samit Patel; The author seems to have forgotten that cricketing skills (read as Slow/Spin bowling) and attitude to bat in dusty bowls than agility/top fitness is required to play in Sub continent conditions . Also why is there a reference to Ranatunga/Mendis/Samit Patel for portly/unfit atheletes when England had some of the Popular Steam locomotives in the likes of Mike Gatting, Derek Pringle, Darren Gough/Fraser (in their later stages) representing their country for a longer time.

Absolute Filth !!

Posted by   on (March 26, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

It is silly how players like Patel and Paneshwar are so like their cultural counter parts in India like Gautam and Sehwag or Zaheer...though to be fair to Indians I think it is more cultural than genes when you have good fielders like Kohli, Raina and Tiwari who are as good as any out there...

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (March 26, 2012, 4:11 GMT)

eng should stop this obesession for the fittest soldiers in the side! if little bit round shape was a problem then we wouldn't have seen ranatunga and SL wouldn't be where it is today. he put the bloody mindness in their attitude to cricket...then there would be no shane warne the greatest ever leg spinner..and Inzimam who used to cream bowlers....let samit play and let him be fit as much as his body naturally alllows..who cares if he 10punds haveier than cook or strauss etc if he ends up scoring 50s, 100s.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (March 26, 2012, 2:27 GMT)

@Lovetesh, there are no ODIs. This tour consists of 2 Tests and that's all, so that's why people are talking about it. Keep up. Monty and Swann will play ahead of him as front-line spinners but if Patel gets picked it will be as a batsman who can bowl a bit. The fact that Bopara will be unable to bowl a bit is one of the reasons that Patel's chances of getting a game have increased, but he would be in there primarily for his batting.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 25, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

@Lovetesh on (March 25 2012, 17:09 PM GMT) Sammit is a batsman who bowls spin and not the other way around. If Eng do select him - and I'd go with him over Ravi and Bell right now - it won't be as a spinner , it will be as a batsman.

Posted by SDHM on (March 25, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

Nutcutlet - Ravi is also of Indian descent remember, so if we're talking genetic disposition he's just as likely to be able to cope as Samit. JG makes a good point - Patel is most definitely a batsman who bowls. Better than a part-time bowler certainly, but not a genuine all-rounder by a long way. There really isn't much to choose between the two of them - both average 41 in FC cricket, both bat in the top four for their county sides. Patel is a more aggressive player and therefore, for me, more suited to the number six position - he can hammer home an advantage or he can help launch a counter-attack if you're under the cosh. I'm beginning to lean towards going with Bresnan and move Prior up to six; I know I said why weaken the batting when it was what failed against Pakistan, but as fit as Jimmy and Broad are, I'm not sure two seamers is enough in the Galle heat and humidity!

Posted by Lovetesh on (March 25, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

In tests, Monty and Swann will play ahead of him. ODIs will be D/N so what is the problem for Samit Patel? Author is magnifying a small issue here.

Comments have now been closed for this article

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
David HoppsClose
David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.

    'Sri Lankan fans embrace the team, not just icon players'

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara talk about the World T20 win, and why their fans are special

    Desert-island reads

ESPNcricinfo XI: Cricket has spawned more books than almost any other sport. Here are Steven Lynch's favourites

    Test cricket needs fewer teams, not more

Ian Chappell: It's clear that for the ICC votes mean more than results

    Lara's peaks

Tony Cozier: While the 375 had a sense of inevitability to it, the 400 came amid a backdrop of strikes and the threat of a whitewash

The Argentine connection

Jonathan Wilson: Football may be the dominant sport in Argentina today but it wasn't the first sport the British brought here

News | Features Last 7 days

UAE all set to host lavish welcoming party

The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006

Attention on Yuvraj, Gambhir in IPL 2014

ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance

The watch breaker, and Malinga specials

Plays of the day from the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi

The captain's blunder

Plays of the day from the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi

India: cricket's Brazil

It's difficult to beat a huge talent base exposed to good facilities, and possessed of a long history of competing as a nation

News | Features Last 7 days