Patel still has issues to digest
It would be an obvious pun to suggest that Samit Patel has a voracious appetite for success. And, during Tuesday's media conference, there are barely-concealed giggles when Patel states he has "too much hunger" before quickly adding "for cricket". Indeed, most of the conversation is littered with queries over his diet tips. It is a bit like asking a lion about vegetarian cooking.
But with Patel the issue of fitness - and his diet - is never far away. While there must have been some irony in the sight of a group of somewhat corpulent journalists sitting around a table grilling Patel - or chewing the fat, if you prefer - on his weight issues, it is actually the England team management who instigate the talk.
Kevin Pietersen, England captain at the time, memorably described Patel as "fat, unfit and lazy" in 2008, while Andy Flower, England head coach, admitted his frustration when omitting Patel from England's squad for the 2011 World Cup. "He was chosen on the condition that he would improve his physical state to be in consideration for this squad of 15," Flower said at the time. "All we were saying was 'get into reasonable shape'. It didn't have to be perfect. In fact, all we wanted to see was an improvement. He hasn't done that."
More recently, following the 5-0 ODI whitewash England suffered in India at the end of last year, Flower complained that Patel "hasn't properly addressed his fitness issues". Furthermore, Flower said Patel's "commitment in that regard has to be questioned, his fielding let him down and let us down." Earlier this tour, Flower, with a smile, said Patel was "inching towards" better fitness.
On the surface, Patel's fitness looks to have improved a great deal. He is noticeably slimmer than in the past and, having scored just one century in 2008 and 2009, he bounced back in 2011 with three centuries, over 1,000 first-class runs and 33 first-class wickets. Such figures meant he had to be in the selectors' minds when considering limited-overs options or indeed, options for the Test matches in Asia. He could, with a good series here, sneak into the squad travelling to Sri Lanka in March.
For now though, Patel's job is to come in at No. 7 in the ODI side - not an easy position at all - and fulfil the role of second spinner. It was a role he performed very well in the first ODI, providing England's innings with a late boost, as he contributed a selfless 17 in just 12 balls before claiming three wickets with his teasing left-arm spin.
"I'm loving the role at the moment," Patel said. "It actually gives you a bit of freedom. There's a no-fear attitude and you just have to score the runs. There are risks you're going to have to take and sometimes it won't work out."
One thing Patel does not lack is confidence in his ability or the ability of his team. While some might expect confidence in the England ODI camp to remain somewhat muted - they have, after all, won just one ODI against an Asian team, excluding Bangladesh, in Asia since 2007 - Patel talks with remarkable positivity.
"We're looking to absolutely nail this series," Patel said. "We want to beat them 4-0. It would be a bit of payback for the Test series. The boys are geared up for it; we know exactly what it's going to take.
"It would be a great achievement to beat them 4-0 in their own backyard. But that's the aim. That would be fantastic. We've got to aim high."
But he is aware of England's need to improve against Pakistan's spinners. Saeed Ajmal, with his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs, and Shahid Afridi, with two lovely deliveries to dismiss Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, still shared seven wickets between them and the sense is that, without a very fine innings from Alastair Cook, England would have struggled to set a competitive total.
"It's important to highlight the skill levels we need against their spinners," Patel said. "We didn't go too well in India but we've got to look forward and this series is about putting a marker down about playing in the sub-continent and playing well against spin. We're aiming to try to win the World Cup. It starts playing in tough series like this against good opposition.
"We can be dangerous. We have a lot of talent in our squad: the likes of KP, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan in the middle-order and Craig Kieswetter, there's a lot of firepower. Then Steve Finn blasts away and with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, we're looking a good squad. And we've not even mentioned Graeme Swann yet. We're going in the right direction."
England's mood was improved further by the news that Jos Buttler's hand is also improving and that there will be no need to send him home. The doctor has said Buttler, who received nine stitches in the webbing of his left-hand during the final game of the Lions tour to Sri Lanka just over a week ago, could play in an emergency. But he will not be considered for selection for Wednesday's ODI to ensure he is not rushed back into action too early. Tim Bresnan will be considered and could, with his extra batting ability, squeeze James Anderson out of the team.
The most pressing worry remains the form of Pietersen. While few doubt Pietersen's hard work or talent, he currently looks a shadow of the batsman he used to be. He has made just three half-centuries in his last 35 ODI innings and, since the start of 2009, averages just 24.85 in ODI cricket. In adopting an overly cautious approach to his innings on Monday night - he scored 14 in 36 balls - he undermined the point of promoting him to the top of the order. Unthinkable though it would have seemed not so long ago, Pietersen's position, in the ODI team at least, is under threat.
It is interesting to note that on Thursday, Pietersen will take part in a media event to launch the Delhi Daredevils' new IPL shirt. But he will not take questions and all members of the UK media are excluded.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo