From being awarded the Under-19 Cricketer of the year in 2014 to being a regular in the shorter formats of the game for the Indian team, Akshar Patel has seen it all in a short span of time. The tall and lanky all-rounder hailing from Gujarat put up some impressive performances for his state team in the Ranji Season 2013-14 which helped him earn a call-up in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2014 for Kings XI Punjab and eventually, Team India in the same year.
In a candid chat with Circle of Cricket, the 22-year old talks about the recently concluded India A tour of Australia, experience with Kings XI Punjab and a lot more.
Q) Tell us about cricket in the recent times and the recently concluded India A tour of Australia?
A) It was a great experience for me. After the IPL, I went to Zimbabwe and bowled pretty well. With the bat also I gained a lot of confidence out there which was not as much before. The IPL stint really helped me in getting confidence. In the Tour of Aus, we got a little worried when we got all for 55 in the first game but slowly we started to gained confidence and dominated the opposition and became champions.
Q) Rahul Dravid is the coach of the India A team. Tell us more about his impact in the dressing room?
A) Spent a lot of quality time with Rahul Bhai. He tells us how to prepare yourself for each game. He shared his experience of playing in Australia with us which helped us to prepare ourselves better. He used to tell us to talk to our opponent team and understand their game.
Q) Any special goals for the upcoming Ranji Season?
A) I am just working on my basics and training hard. Will work on my line-length and practice bowling slower in the 4-day games. I do not want to do too many changes on my game.
Q) Coming to Kings XI Punjab, you have been one of their most economical bowlers, who was your biggest support/mentor in the setup?
A) Viru Paji and our bowling coach Joe Dawes did help me a lot and instill confidence within me. Joe trusts me a lot and used to talk to be about how I should be tackling situations. Viru Paji was always welcoming and I used to ask him about what goes on in a batsmanâ€™s mind when he is looking to go for runs. He told me not to ball too many similar balls and not ball too fast or too slow.
Q) Who is the most notorious player in the KXIP dressing room and why?
A) Glenn Maxwell was the funniest in the team. He and Miller always used to keep the morale high for the team. They used to try speaking Punjab in their accent so it sounded really funny. When fans mobbed Maxi for selfies, he sometimes used to take away their cellphones and hide it.
Q) We all remember the game between Kings XI Punjab and Rising Pune Warriors in which Dhoni scored 24 runs off your bowling, in the final over of the game, to take RPS home. Â Take us through what was running through your mind in that over?
A) Firstly, I did not expect that I would get to bowl the final over as I thought it would a pacer and Kyle Abbot had one over left. Murali Vijay (Skipper) came up to me and told me that he trust me so I was really confident of defending the target. The first ball was a dot so I felt relaxed. After that, the next two balls were hit for a six and a four so I had to rethink our plan. Since I have played with Mahi bhai in the Indian Team, I was aware that he hits the ball which is closer to the stumps. Thus, I was bowling wide to him and that did not work too. I was confident as a bowler because I was bowling well but still he hit the ball well. Thatâ€™s why he is the best finisher in the World. Of course, the morale of the team went down after that but then I did not feel that I bowled that over poorly. When I met Mahi bhai later on during the Zimbabwe series, he told me that I did not bowl wrongly, it was just the batsmanâ€™s day. It was his day and not mine. Was a learning for me, eventually.
Q) You belong from the state of Gujarat. Tell us which is your favorite dishes among these â€“ Dhokla, Khandvi, Thepla & Handvo?
A) My favourite has always been Dhokla. Whenever I am home, I make sure I eat them. When I come back from a tour, my mom prepares them in advance because she knows I love them.
Q) If you were not a cricketer, what would you have become?
A) Mechanical Engineer. I always wanted to become one.
Q) If you were locked in a room with a Bollywood actress. What are the 3 things you would want to carry along with you?
A) For that, you need to tell which heroine would it be (Laughs). Iâ€™ll make sure I have the keys with me and thatâ€™s enough.
Q) Since you are a decent singer yourself. Which is your Favourite singer and song?
A) I love Arijit Singhâ€™s voice and my favourite is â€œTum Hi Hoâ€.