New Zealand offspinner Jeetan Patel, who is scheduled to make his eighth Test appearance against Sri Lanka in Galle tomorrow, believes the two-match series will be an ideal opportunity to cement his position in the XI. "This is a chance for me to push my claims to play more for New Zealand; play more Tests, more one-dayers and maybe get back in the Twenty20 side," he told NZPA.
Since making his debut at Cape Town in April 2006, Patel has been a regular feature of New Zealand's test squad. However, in many cases, when final pitch inspections warranted the inclusion of only one specialist spinner, he has to cede the spot to captain Daniel Vettori. However, having featured in both Tests in Bangladesh last October it is likely that Patel would be an integral part of New Zealand's side in Sri Lanka.
Patel will also be looking to improve on his 26 wickets, given the opportunity on the turning tracks of the subcontinent. And he showed what an asset he could be, taking 3 for 81 against Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI in a tour game, an effort that complemented his 72 in the first innings with the bat. "It was just good to get 25 overs under my belt and spend some time in the middle," Patel said.
He said the county stint at Warwickshire had benefited him tremendously as well. The decision to play in England after Warwickshire tabled a three-month deal followed a season where Patel felt he had been under bowled at national and provincial level.
"I went over there purely to play cricket because I felt as if I'd lost a few overs [in New Zealand], I didn't bowl as many as I'd have liked," Patel said. " I wasn't looking at a county but fortunately we picked up one. I actually did get confidence out of the experience. Because I got my loads up and found some rhythm again."
Patel also believed that New Zealand Cricket's secondment of former Pakistani spinner Saqlain Mushtaq as a part-time technical advisor has also worked wonders. "He's been fantastic with all the guys," Patel said. "For me, we'd go through a check list and just talk about what's going on out in the middle from a spinner's perspective.
"He's keen to keep me kosher, keep me in line. I don't think there's too much to change now but in future years hopefully we'll spend some more time together and work on different deliveries."