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Away from spotlight, Parthiv shows his value

Parthiv Patel steers one towards third man BCCI

How does one stand out in a team that has Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in it?

Just ask Parthiv Patel. He is currently Royal Challengers Bangalore's top run-scorer in IPL 2019, with 138 runs in four games, 45 ahead of the second-placed de Villiers. Yet, nearly half the questions asked of him at the press conference on the eve of the match between Royal Challengers and Kolkata Knight Riders were about the Big Two in his side. And all Parthiv did was respond, breaking into his trademark crinkle-eyed smile. By now, he's probably accepted that they're always going to be the talking point.

"Obviously they set very high standards, there is no doubt about it," Parthiv said on Thursday, in Bengaluru. "The reason everyone is talking about Virat and AB is because of the performance they have given for Royal Challengers, and with Virat for India and AB for South Africa. I think more than anything, they will try and score big. AB had a good game against Mumbai here and Virat got a 40 as well in the same game. I am sure as everyone else, they will be as hungry as possible."

Royal Challengers have endured a rough start to the season, losing all four games. Their most recent match, against Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday, ended in another heavy defeat but a look at the scorecard throws up just one noteworthy batting performance: Parthiv's 67 off 41 balls.

In that game, he had a cautious start, making 22 off 13 in the Powerplay, going after just the bad balls while letting Kohli take most of the strike. After Kohli and de Villiers' wickets in succession, and another batting collapse, it seemed like Parthiv was the only one who could avert another disaster. Although he kept his wicket intact till the 18th over, he could not accelerate as expected and the team managed 158 for 4.

Rewind to the opening game of IPL 2019, where Parthiv kept his cool and batted deep in a collapse which saw Royal Challengers crumble to 70 all out against Chennai Super Kings, after Kohli and de Villiers had fallen for single-digit scores. He was the only Royal Challengers batsman to get to double figures and also came close to carrying his bat: he was the last batsman to be dismissed for 29 off 35 balls.

In a tournament - and a format - synonymous with big numbers, bringing up Parthiv's statistics is unlikely to do him favours. He has played 129 matches in the IPL and has 2613 runs at an average of 22.5. His strike rate of 119.14 is the second-lowest among openers who have played at least 50 IPL matches. While he can bring out the big shots, he isn't known as a batsman who can go wham from the first ball. Since March 2017, he has a Powerplay strike rate of 148.67 but after the first six overs, it fizzles down to 119.83. In the last five years, his average has touched 30 in just one completed season (in 2018).

Yet, Royal Challengers have kept faith in the 34-year old, buying him back in 2018 even after his below-par stint with them in 2014.

Parthiv has featured in all the editions of the tournament and has played for six different IPL teams. He's had 22 different opening partners through the years; eight at Royal Challengers over three seasons and three in the last four games of IPL 2019 alone. But with Kohli admitting that the side haven't found the right balance yet and that more chopping and changing are on the way, just a few bad scores for Parthiv could probably keep him out of a top-order heavy line-up. Considering the fragility of Royal Challengers' batting order, it's unlikely they would keep him just as the experienced wicketkeeper who would float around the order depending on the needs.

Ask Parthiv about his role in the team and this is all he says: "Personally, I have played for so many teams and played with so many openers, it doesn't matter that much to me. I have played a lot with Virat and with Moeen [Ali] together. I know what my role is and it doesn't worry me too much."

Parthiv has indeed managed to show his value and has been trying to prove that he belongs in that Royal Challengers line-up. While accepting that the spotlight is always going to be on them, he probably realises he might not always be given the long rope, especially at the top of the order.

"Obviously I am quite happy the way I have played but individual performances doesn't matter as much. Whoever plays in the XI tries to do well and exactly what I have been trying to do," he said. "Every time I get a chance to play, I try to perform to the best of my ability and I am glad the performances have come so far."