An off-season trade had seen Patel move from the Delhi Capitals back to his old team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). In the first camp of the season with his new team, the 30-year-old was told he would get game time by skipper Virat Kohli, which he believes gave him more clarity and confidence going into the tournament.
Harshal Patel repaid the faith shown in him in the very first game of the season against the Mumbai Indians (MI). The bowler from Harayana ran riot against a stacked MI middle-order to claim his first fiver in the IPL and became the first bowler to do so against the five-time champions.
Before the IPL, Patel had had an impressive 2019-20 domestic season, with 52 wickets and 292 runs in the first-class Ranji Trophy for his state Haryana, to go with 374 runs and 19 wickets in the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
But the pacer failed to cement his place in the Delhi Capitals playing XI after being bought by the franchise in 2018. Patel managed just five matches for them last season and his move back to the Royal Challengers has really helped him turn a new leaf in the IPL.
Here we take a look at three reasons why Harshal Patel should be in India's squad for the T20 World Cup.
1. India's premium pace options had average IPL 2021 campaigns
India's quality pace-bowling department has won them a number of games over the last few years across formats, but premier national team bowlers misfired in IPL 2021. The pitches this season assisted the pacers more than the spinners, but despite that, India's regular quicks faultered.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who failed to carry his form from the England tour into the IPL, picked up only three wickets in the tournament at an economy rate of over nine, before sustaining another injury (a thigh strain) that forced him to miss a few games.
Meanwhile, his SRH teammate T.Natarajan also struggled with a knee injury that ruled him out for the season, with the likes of Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini and Prasidh Krishna all failing to impress.
Shardul Thakur also failed to build on the fine form he showed before the tournament in Australia and struggled to take wickets consistently, something he seemed to be managing at crucial stages in previous games. He leaked runs at an economy rate of over 10, and scalped only five wickets.
Harshal Patel, in the meantime, has been leading the race for the top-wicket takers with 17 wickets to his name.
An average of 15.11 and a strike rate of 9.88 are both league-leading numbers, while his economy rate of 9.88, took a bit of a hit in a later game,his ever-improving ability to bowl wide yorkers ensured he remained RCB's premier bowler during the curtailed season.
2.Harshal Patel's bag of tricks
The secret to Harshal's success is his huge array of deliveries. He employs an excellent wide yorker and has an assortment of slower balls, including the one where he rolls the fingers along its sides, as well as a superb back-of-the-hand delivery. These variations really came into play on the slow surface in Chennai that was conducive to his bowling style.
Patel often started his spells around the 12th over when the opposition was typically looking to break free. With an oldish ball that began to grip, he used his offcutter variation to take the pace off the ball and bowl really straight. In theory, this might sound really simple, but Harshal's consistency and confidence in sticking to his plans are rare and courageous attributes.
The medium pacer's pitch map really stands out. While he's improved on his ability to bowl yorkers, it's his slower deliveries that the batsmen struggled to pick up this IPL. The majority of his wicket-taking deliveries has been bowled in the so-called "slot," which is a clear indication of how much the batsmen are struggling to pick up the variations.
If the T20 World Cup is set to be held in India, Harshal Patel's variations on the slower surface could prove to be an efficient option and he can be a great partner for Bumrah.
3.Harshal Patel - the opening batsman
After being shunned by the Gujarat side early in his career, Harshal Patel moved to Harayana and eventually became the captain of the side. In the 2019-2020 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Harshal Patel opened the batting for his side and scored his runs at an average of 31.17 in 12 games.
In 62 List A innings, Patel has scored 822 runs at an average of only 17.48, but at a healthy strike rate of just under 150. He has also registered a highest score of 82, proving that he can convert his starts into big knocks. His primary role at the top of the order is to maximize the powerplay overs and get his side off to a good start.
Patel emphasizes range-hitting during training, but he has been looking to be more crafty in recent times. He has admitted to watching Virat Kohli in order to learn from the master. He showed glimpses of batting potential in helping the side narrow their margin of defeat against the Punjab Kings with 31 runs off 13 balls.
While batting at the top of the order is something he won't be asked to do for the Indian side for obvious reasons, Patel's ability with the willow could enhance India's already solid batting depth.
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