Munaf Musa Patel
July 12, 1983, Ikhar, Gujarat
Right hand Bat
Right arm Medium fast
Few medium-pacers had generated as much hype before bowling a ball in first-class, let alone international, cricket as had Munaf Musa Patel, the young boy from the little town of Ikhar in Bahruch, Gujarat. Kiran More had seen him bowl in the nets and sent him straight to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai to train under TA Sekhar and Dennis Lillee. Soon he was being hailed as the fastest man in Indian cricket. Then, even as Baroda and Gujarat vied for his services, Munaf chose Mumbai, after Sachin Tendulkar had taken special interest in him and had a word with the authorities in the Mumbai Cricket Association. Even then Munaf's first-class career was anything but smooth as he spent more time recovering from various injuries than actually playing.
Strongly built though not overly tall, Munaf gradually gathers momentum in his approach to the crease, before releasing the ball with a windmill-whirl of the hands. His priority, in his early years, was to bowl quick. And it was this that first caught the eye of More and others. Later, he added reverse swing to his repertoire and troubled batsmen with a well-directed yorker. After plenty of speculation and close calls he finally received a call from the national selection panel for the second Test against England in March 2006, after an impressive performance for the Board President's XI saw him pick up 10 English wickets for 91 runs. In Mohali a week later, he ended with 7 for 97, the best performance by an Indian fast bowler on Test debut. A consistent series against West Indies later that year meant Munaf had established himself as a regular member of the side.
Then came the lull as Munaf, like most of India's new crop of fast bowlers, began to fade away after a good start. He lost pace at an alarming rate, and seemed intent on rebranding himself as back-up seamer as opposed to a pace spearhead. He soon lost his place in the Test side, and despite a handful of average ODI performances, was a left-field selection for the New Zealand tour in 2009. He did a reasonable job in India's win in Hamilton, but a schedule packed with the occasional home Tests in between ODIs and Twenty20s meant he rarely stayed in the radar for long. Injuries to Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth in the lead-up to the Sri Lanka tour in 2010 gave him another opportunity to impress.
Munaf's career continued to be dogged by injuries, but in an ironic twist, he was the beneficiary of one when Praveen Kumar was forced out of India's 2011 World Cup squad. In stepped Munaf to take his place as India's third seamer and he ended the tournament as India's third-highest wicket-taker behind Zaheer and Yuvraj Singh, with 11 scalps. His consistent performances prompted bowling coach Eric Simons to call him the unsung hero of India's World Cup victory.
Yet again, though, the high did not last long and within a few months Munaf was once again dropped from the national side in all three formats. Nevertheless, he continued to play domestic cricket for Baroda.
Anand Vasu and Cricinfo staff
Batting & Fielding