Despite the high-flying form of the Indian team throughout 2016, injuries have been a major setback, with the Test team having been changed for each of the last 27 matches. With so many permutations and combinations taking place, the Indian team has tried out everyone possible in the squad.
The fifth Test between India and England saw a number of substitutions taking place while India was fielding. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was replaced by Ishant Sharma in the playing XI, and Manish Pandey, who came in as a replacement for Ajinkya Rahane, were seen doing the substitute’s job in the middle. However, when Manish Pandey had to sit out for a while, Axar Patel, who was not part of the Test squad, suddenly made an appearance for a brief while on day 1 and 2.
Without much fanfare, Patel had been flown in late Thursday night as cover for Ravindra Jadeja, who seemed to have been carrying a slight niggle the night before the start of the fifth Test. Other reports stated that Jayant Yadav’s hamstring issues paved the way for Patel to be in contention for the Test without featuring in the 16-man squad.
On the eve of the Test, Jadeja passed the fitness test, going through to get a slot in the playing XI. Amit Mishra was chosen to be the third spinner in the absence of Jayant Yadav. However, Patel, who still doesn’t have a Test cap to his name, didn’t take much time to find his way to the ground.
On the second day, Murali Vijay’s injury meant that Patel was required to do fielding duties. Known to be a quick fielder who is light on his feet, Patel didn’t exactly have a field day. To make matters worse, he made a mess of a potential catch in the outfield, spraying it past the ropes and injuring his hand in the process.
In the 157th over of the English innings, debutant Liam Dawson smacked an R Ashwin delivery towards deep midwicket. Patel zeroed in on the ball, but misjudged the trajectory. He caught it, but fell backwards, He had done well to reach the ball, but the momentum carried him through to the ropes. Having received a bruise on his hand from the effort, he had to leave the field immediately, to be substituted by another substitute.
In July 2015, Patel had received severe criticism from Sunil Gavaskar, when the former India captain claimed that Patel was not fit for Test cricket and shouldn’t be considered as an option in Tests. Patel conceded that he was taken aback by the comments, but was determined to prove him wrong.
Since then, he has been in and out of the limited-overs side, but seems to be slowly finding his feet in international cricket after having looked completely out of sorts in the initial part of his career in the blue jersey. In 30 ODIs, he still averages less than 15 with the bat, while having taken 35 wickets.
Some people were clueless about Patel’s inclusion in the team, and took to Twitter to ask the question to a wider audience: