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Ind vs Eng: Samit Patel's rallying cry inspires shift of power

Monday, 14 January 2013 - 11:33am IST | Place: Kochi | Agency: Daily Telegraph

All-rounder urged England to help end his losing run. More high scores expected in second ODI.

Samit Patel's frustration had turned to desperation. Before last Friday's victory in Rajkot, much had been made of England's horrible record in India in one-day internationals. They had won just one in 18, and had lost the past 10 in bilateral series.

What had not been picked up, however, was that only one player on this tour had appeared in all 10 of those defeats, spanning two 5-0 crushings in 2008 and 2011. It was Patel. Ravi Bopara had also shared in all 10 ignominies, but he is not here.

So, Patel, whose family hails from Vadodara in the same Gujarat state as Rajkot and who was being watched by members of his wife's family, had issued a rallying call to team-mates, telling them he was desperate to end the sequence of defeats.

"Absolutely," Patel said when asked whether this had been the case. "I said I'd been here for 10 ODIs and lost all 10. It's just great to get a win here. Sometimes people don't realise how much of an effort it is to beat these guys over here."

And Patel played a key role, his brilliantly destructive 44 not out from just 20 balls ensuring that England's total of 325 for four was just out of India's reach. It was an innings of authority, a quality that Patel has not always demonstrated in England colours. Yes, the cool steel of the selectorial axe has often appeared to find his neck more easily than others (most recently when he was dropped for the fourth Test in Nagpur before Christmas), but too often he has not aided his cause with, let us say, his less-than-enthusiastic attitude to training.

His weight and fitness is clearly sufficiently passable for England to pick him at the moment, but it was noticeable that, in the YoYo running test [a variation of a beep test] to conducted last week in Delhi, he pulled out very early.

And, worryingly, his left-arm spin bowling lacks bite at the moment. The ball is rolling out of his fingers rather than leaving with a snap. He bowled three wicketless overs for 21 in Rajkot, where England were fortunate they could rely more heavily on Joe Root's part-time off-spin.

Patel will be a pivotal figure if England are to win this series, and it seems that he must be an adaptable one too. It appeared that he might bat at No?4 in Rajkot but then Root was selected in that position, although Eoin Morgan eventually took it when England made a commanding start.

"I've got a pretty versatile role," Patel said. "I'd do anything for the team. I'd love to bat at four but it's whatever best suits the team. I could come in at four or at seven, six wherever. I'm happy to do that. We have a lot of six hitters in our team now - Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Craig Kieswetter, even Cooky now!"

The mention of his captain, Alastair Cook, in relation to big hitting was made with a smile by the likeable Patel, but Cook's six off Ravi Ashwin over long off was cast-iron evidence of England's progress.

"I think the way we've learned how to play their spinners is outstanding," Patel said, "and a credit to us as a team because in past tours we've struggled. It just shows if you put in the hard yards and you learn, you get your rewards."

Even if the home crowd do not necessarily appreciate it as much. England's innings was played mostly in silence in Rajkot. "As a batsman, if you hit a boundary and you don't get a clap it can be a bit hurtful really," Patel said.

"It's about how you handle it. We were pretty calm and we learn every time we go out to the middle. But it's great to play here and if you don't enjoy playing here you won't enjoy a game of cricket."

England's next opportunity to enjoy a game is at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi in tomorrow's (Tuesday's) second ODI. And they practised hard in the heat here yesterday, after some lengthy talks as a group and also some laughing about the water snake that Stuart Meaker, the Surrey pace bowler, spotted in the hotel pool in the morning.

The pitch here was relaid in 2010 with some poor pitches initially resulting, but it looks a belter now. Expect another high-scoring cracker.


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