Ajaz Patel rides the nostalgia wave in Mumbai
Left-arm spinner will "miss going home" but is happy to welcome friends and family to watch him play at the Wankhede
For Ajaz Patel, life has come full circle. The left-arm spinner was just a month-old baby when New Zealand last played a Test in Mumbai. And when Ajaz left Mumbai, the 'City of Dreams', as an eight-year-old, returning to play a Test here may have not even been in his dreams. But here he is, 25 years later, gearing up to play a Test in the city for his country, which he now calls his home.
Coming back to Mumbai makes him "nostalgic" and "emotional" with New Zealand set to fight for the series in the second Test from Friday, after eking out a draw in the Kanpur Test - a result Ajaz helped orchestrate in the final session of the fifth day along with debutant Rachin Ravindra in the fading light. For Ajaz, playing a Test in Mumbai is "something that I'm sure I will look back on very fondly in future".
"I was thinking about it when we landed in Mumbai yesterday," Ajaz said. "It was nice coming out - we have come here with family for holidays [in the past]. It's a little bit different now, obviously. This time I am with cricket.
"I have come to the Wankhede for a lot of IPL games, thanks to Mitch McClenaghan. He has been very kind every time I have come here. I have also bowled here a few times, training and stuff like that. It is kind of nostalgic being here. I just have to cope with not being able to see the family. I'm sure I will be making a quick trip back home very frequently whenever that's possible."
For someone whose parents have never "seen me play in person even back in New Zealand", Ajaz said it would be "really special" for his family to come and watch him play from the stands at the Wankhede.
"I have got various members of the family coming in on different days of the game," he said. "I guess it's the beauty of Test cricket. Everyone can come in on days that they are free.
"I don't think about it [playing in front of the family] as pressure, it's more of excitement. I know we didn't get off at the airport. I have got a lot of flashbacks - leaving Mumbai for the first time and coming back to Mumbai for the first time, coming to Mumbai for a wedding and stuff like that. For me, it's going to be a very, very special moment."
The past week has been one of a roller coaster for Ajaz. It all started with him starring on a tense final day in Kanpur alongside Ravindra. The pair played eight overs together - with Ajaz facing 23 deliveries - with one wicket in hand to save the match. Ajaz said it was "a very cool moment" for the two Indian-origin players to be fighting for a draw against a strong home side and that in itself is "an amazing story".
"He [Ravindra] was calm out there. He has got a great head on his shoulders," Ajaz said. "We spoke about playing the ball as straight as possible. If it goes past the outside edge, it goes past the outside edge but as long as we keep the stumps out of play and not get out in front of pads - that's the most important part. I don't think at any point I thought about the outcome, and I am not really sure if Rachin did. It makes things a lot easier.
"Against the irony of us at home - towards the back end of the game and after the game was over - the two boys of Indian heritage, being brought up in New Zealand, playing against one of the biggest cricketing nations, trying to fight for a draw and that I suppose, [is] quite an amazing story in itself. It was special for us to be out there, and I thought that was quite fitting."
Srinidhi Ramanujam Is a sub-editor with ESPNCricinfo