"Just having a bit of fun" - Axar Patel on how 'captain sahab' Rishabh Pant helped him for crucial cameo in IND vs PAK 2024 T20 World Cup clash

Axar Patel played an important cameo vs Pakistan. (PC: X)
Axar Patel played an important cameo vs Pakistan. (PC: Axar Patel - X)

Axar Patel credited 'captain sahab' Rishabh Pant for helping him be at ease when he came to bat at No. 4 at a key stage against Pakistan in the 2024 T20 World Cup on Sunday, June 9. He said Pant, his captain at the Delhi Capitals (DC), made him feel comfortable by not talking much about cricket and having a bit of "fun".

Axar, promoted to up the order apparently to counter Pakistan's left-arm seamers, started slowly but ended with a decent 20 (18) with the aid of two fours and a six in the low-scoring thriller. His 39-run partnership with Pant helped India recover from 19/2 when they had lost the Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma cheaply.

"There was no chance to plan when I got to know I was going at number four!" Axar told BCCI. "It was easy for me because our captain sahab (Rishabh) wasn't saying anything about cricket and was just having a bit of fun to make me feel easy while telling a few things [about the game] here and there after every ball. So while talking I also felt a bit easy that everything's going alright."

Pant, who top-scored with a brilliant 42 (31), said Axar's presence helped him in the middle.

"There was nothing much on my mind, I was just planning to keep it simple with a positive mindset because India-Pakistan is always a high-pressure game," the keeper-batter said. "Then, when Bapu came in - I think he has practiced batting at No. 3,4 all IPL (laughs) - when your mate is with you, you get comfortable. We were speaking to each other, being comfortable, and not thinking much about the situation."

Pant and Axar have been good friends for a long time. Axar is also DC's vice-captain and they play a similar role at the IPL franchise too.

"I didn't want to give the ball to him in his range" - Axar Patel on planning for the superb over vs Imad Wasim

Axar also bowled a match-defining over in the second innings. Pitted against left-hander Imad Wasim with a short leg-side boundary and the wind flowing in that direction too, he conceded just two runs in the 16th over by firing it short, quick and wide outside the off-stump.

"The plan was just that I didn't want to give the ball to him in his range and get hit for a six at deep mid-wicket because the wind direction was that side too," Patel said. "I spoke to the captain, Rohit (Sharma) bhai, to give me 2 point fielders, and a sweeper fielder ready for the cut shot as well and I'll bowl him for the cut shot. [I thought] if he hits a cut or hits one through covers that's okay because it's a very difficult shot. I executed it well, the over went well and the runs difference increased," Axar explained.

India are now at the top of their group and will next play the USA on Wednesday, June 12.

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