Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Patel finished with 25 Tests, 38 ODIs and two T20Is, his last international appearance coming in India's famous Test win in Johannesburg in January 2018. A year later, he was also part of the squad when India won a Test series in Australia for the first time in their history.
Apart from playing for India, Patel will be remembered for his contributions to Gujarat. He led the side to the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2015, scoring a match-winning maiden List A century in the final against Delhi. He outdid that achievement the next season, when he made 143 against Mumbai to help Gujarat pull off the highest successful run-chase in a Ranji Trophy final.
Only two months before that Ranji Trophy triumph, Patel had earned a Test recall after eight years, ahead of the third Test against England in Mohali. So abrupt was his inclusion that Patel, who was captaining Gujarat in a first-class game in Hubli at the time, had to make an eight-hour road trip to Goa before arriving in Chandigarh via a stopover in New Delhi on the eve of the match.
Patel was always a gutsy batsman, a quality he displayed even on his Test debut when he occupied the crease for 84 minutes and helped save the game with an unbeaten 19. This facet of his game earned him the occasional promotion to open the batting, which he did most memorably while keeping out the fiery Shoaib Akhtar and scoring 69 in the deciding Rawalpindi Test of India's 2004 tour to Pakistan. In all, he scored six half-centuries in Tests, with a highest of 71 against England in Chennai in 2016.
Patel took an unusual route to the top level: he captained India at the 2002 Under-19 World Cup, played for India A, and played Test cricket before playing senior domestic cricket. He settled into the Test team quickly, playing 19 out of India's 20 Tests from his debut, but a drop-off in the quality of his glovework - the missed stumping of Ricky Ponting on the final day of the 2004 Sydney Test was a particularly noteworthy error - led to his exclusion. The emergence of Dinesh Karthik and later MS Dhoni pushed him further down the pecking order, and his appearances thereafter were sporadic: a one-off Test in 2008 when Dhoni opted out of a Test series in Sri Lanka, a handful of white-ball games as a specialist opener in 2011 and early 2012, and five more Tests in the 2016-2018 period.
While his international career was a stop-start affair, Patel was an IPL regular, usually as a punchy presence at the top of the order. He was part of three title-winning teams - the Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and the Mumbai Indians in 2015 and 2017 - and was Mumbai's highest run-getter in 2017 with 395 runs at a strike rate of 134.81. He played for six IPL franchises in all, most recently for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2019. He was part of their squad in 2020 as well, but didn't get a game with the team preferring to use AB de Villiers as their first-choice keeper and promoting Devdutt Padikkal to open the batting.
Patel ended his career with numbers that put him in elite company. In all first-class cricket in India, he scored 9500 runs at an average of 44.18; only Wasim Jaffer, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir have scored more. Overall, he finished with 11,240 first-class runs at an average of 43.49, with 27 hundreds, including a best of 206 against Odisha in the 2008-09 season, as well as 486 catches and 77 stumpings.
He remains the fourth-youngest Test debutant for India, behind only Tendulkar, Piyush Chawla and L Sivaramakrishnan.