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Analysis

Wretched Patidar isn't just about his low scores, and India know it

India saw certain qualities in Patidar that they liked. He is in the squad for the Dharamsala Test because nothing's changed on that front

Bat, pad, and it pops to Pope - for Rajat Patidar, it's yet another failure in a short international career so far  •  Getty Images

Bat, pad, and it pops to Pope - for Rajat Patidar, it's yet another failure in a short international career so far  •  Getty Images

If you've played cricket at all, you've felt it, even if you've only played with a tennis ball in the backyard. The transcendental feeling of middling the ball and watching it fly. It's at the very core of cricket's appeal, well before runs and wickets come into the picture. You would imagine even Test cricketers feel it.
Rajat Patidar probably felt it on the first morning of the Rajkot Test, when he got on his toes to a perfectly good ball from Mark Wood - fifth-stump channel, reaching the batter just above stump height - and sent it racing to the cover boundary with a punch of crisp minimalism, all timing and no movements wasted.
If you've played cricket at all, you've probably also been engulfed in the gloom of batting. It's the best thing in the world, and it's the absolute worst thing, a thing of beauty and fragility and outcomes that are always beyond your control, no matter how good you are and how hard you work. Sometimes, you get a filthy long-hop that sticks in the pitch and transforms into something utterly spiteful.
Patidar got a ball like that from Tom Hartley, not long after his moment of transcendence against Wood, and was out for 5.
32, 9, 5, 0, 17, 0.
Sixty-three runs at an average of 10.5. Patidar has been out twice to long-hops, he's middled a defensive shot that rolled back onto his stumps, and he's got out to good balls too. All batters go through times like this in their careers, if they play for long enough. Patidar has experienced it in his debut series.
Judgments can fly from every corner when a batter goes through an initiation like this, verdicts passed on technique, temperament, body language. In Patidar's case, there's also the fact that he came to Test cricket with a first-class average in the 40s. It may have been held up as a case of selectorial genius if he had made runs; now it's a stick you can beat him and the selectors with.
With the series won and one Test to play, and with KL Rahul and Virat Kohli still unavailable, the selectors have retained Patidar in India's squad. A section of fans may believe it would have been more prudent to release him for Madhya Pradesh's Ranji Trophy semi-final against Vidarbha, but India have resisted that idea and kept him in the mix for Dharamsala.
Should Patidar play the fifth Test against England?
14.2K votes
Yes, give him another chance
No, bring in Devdutt Padikkal
The reason is simple. India saw certain qualities in Patidar that they believed would bring him success at Test level when they picked him as Kohli's replacement on January 24. Five weeks on, they probably still see those qualities in him, the same ones that brought him hundreds in successive red-ball games for India A against England Lions in the lead-up to this series.
India would probably also contend that Patidar has had an unusually poor run of luck.
The further right you're located on this graph, the more control you've shown as a batter. The higher up you are, the luckier you've been. Of all India batters who have faced at least 100 balls in this series, only Shubman Gill, Dhruv Jurel and Axar Patel have achieved better control percentages than Patidar's 89.02. No one, however, has survived as few false shots per dismissal as Patidar has. He's only played 18 false shots in this series, but he's been dismissed six times. Every third misjudgment has cost him his wicket.
The graph also tells you something about India's selections through this series. They have dropped Shreyas Iyer and left KS Bharat out of their first XI - these two happen to have the worst control percentages of India's batters - and they have retained Patidar in their squad for Dharamsala. India are keeping a close eye on the processes, and not worrying too much about outcomes. They probably judge that Patidar is batting well enough, and expect his rotten run of luck to turn at some point.
Patidar may yet find himself out of the XI in Dharamsala. Devdutt Padikkal has made an incredibly strong claim for selection with six hundreds and an unbeaten 93 in his last 14 innings in first-class and List A cricket. It could happen that Padikkal makes a better impression in the nets than Patidar in the lead-up to the Test match.
Whether India play Patidar or leave him out, though, they will make their decision for reasons that go deeper than his string of low scores. They know there's an immensely gifted cricketer hidden beneath those numbers.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo