The year of the pandemic locked them in quarantines, but athletes around the world have found the resilience to call out the times to please people and have discovered their moral voice to say NO. Gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Naomi Osaka and Virat Kohli spoke out and defied convention. The year also saw athletes discover the full potential of social media – not just the big names, but even hitherto small town strangers have become stars in their own right. There were also groundbreaking performances that will stand the test of time. The hockey captain who awakened the nostalgic pride of a country, a New Zealand cricket born in Mumbai returned to his roots to create history, a badminton star who eventually learned to marry art and commerce , and the man who threw his gold-plated javelin to quench the thirst of a nation.

The year would end as it started for the Patel – Axar and Ajaz. Like reflections after the fact, in the dark, far from the island of fame and fortune. Axar has had a superb start to his Home Test career, but it is inconceivable that he will make a Test appearance outside of Asia for the foreseeable future. Ajaz has been overlooked for New Zealand’s home test series against Bangladesh, and he’s unlikely to get a steady stream of home games either. It’s the twisted reality of the left arm spinning twins – one will barely have a home game, the other might only go for a home game.

This is how the year began for them. Like reflections after the fact, in the dark, far from the island of fame and fortune. Axar, it was presumed, was stung forever in the area of ​​the white ball, an alternative to Ravindra Jadeja when the all-rounder wanted a break or was injured. Ajaz’s fate was already pre-scripted like the fate of countless other spinners to have raced for New Zealand, a forced formality when playing in Asia. Yet as the year progressed and rumored, the two not only burned the typography around them, but enjoyed moments of bright sunshine, enough that they weren’t forgotten by the game, even if they return to anonymity.

Ajaz jumped into cricket’s immortality by becoming the third bowler to pick all ten wickets in one inning, and will now, no matter what, sit in this rarest and rarest space alongside Jim. Laker and Anil Kumble. Axar Patel would catch 36 wickets at 11.86 in five tests, one five for every two innings he has played. Either one or the other is unlikely to ever duplicate the exploits of 2021, but for what they did they deserve to be celebrated, especially so as not to lose heart and fervently cling to their dreams. and ambitions.

There were times when the two could have dashed hopes of playing trial cricket. After switching from left arm rhythm to left arm rotation when he was skipped for an Under-19 World Cup, Ajaz waited 12 years for his test cap, a nerve-wracking fate when he did. the shuttle between his national team and did not even have an open-ended contract. It would have been easy to give up hope, but he clung to the searing ambition of playing tryout cricket, patiently chewed his time and seized his opportunity. The sporadic appearances at home – where he has only played 49 overs in three games and has yet to register a wicket – have not deterred him.

As New Zealand set foot in Asia, Ajaz flaunted its numbers like a peacock. Five wicket trips in the UAE, Sri Lanka, and a perfect 10 in India are no feats, as foreign spinners, even the best of them like Shane Warne, have historically struggled in Asia despite favorable conditions during their first tours. But Ajaz, after stuttering on day one at Kanpur, quickly readjusted his product, starting with bowling longer to slow his pace and use the arm ball more wisely and give more revs. “The way he adapted to the box was mind-blowing,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said later.

It was as if Axar was adapting to the demands and dynamics of trial cricket. Axar’s first-class numbers (171 wickets at 24.19) are startling, but not spectacular, but he has rarely been considered a red ball operator. Perhaps his profession was more prose than poetry; maybe it didn’t have too many fancy variations and was meant to be limited; maybe the world judged him purely by the way he played at the IPL, where he had been a regular for years. Most importantly, Axar didn’t see himself through the same lens the world saw him.

“Every time I’ve played in First Class or India A I’ve done well. I’ve never seen myself as a white ball specialist. It all depends on what you perceive to be a ball specialist. white or the specialist of the red ball. I always had the conviction that whenever I had the opportunity, I would do well “, he declared after having subjected England to repeated suffering in Chennai and Ahmedabad.

Not-so-orthodox spin duo

The two are not quite orthodox left-arm spinners, especially in the Bishan Singh Bedi mold. Both have embraced modernity on different scales. Ajaz does not rotate the body as strongly as romantics, rather it is a gentle pirouette. Despite his sturdy build, he appears to have loose limbs, like most left arm spinners, who like many left-handed drummers exude an elastic grace. He also doesn’t use his body as much, instead leaning on his shoulder. The round-arm action allows for lift off the surface, and the wider release exaggerates the inward drift of right-handed batsmen. But its modes of deception are rooted in the classic principles of drift, dip and turn. It is neither Rangana Herath nor Jadeja, but its bandwidth is closer to that of Sri Lanka than that of the Indian.

Axar, however, plays with Jadeja’s shadow cast on him. Often times they squeezed in the same sentences, were they often seen as the same at certain points in their careers. When Jadeja began her relentless metamorphosis, Axar, in some corners, was even an early Jadeja. This was not entirely devoid of truth, as Axar preferred to play at a faster pace and a flatter trajectory, before starting his own evolution.

From mid to late 90 km / h, he decelerated to the 88-95 km / h range and learned to release the ball with subtle changes in action and release. Some balls he delivers with high arm action, some are rounder, some are in between. Some are outdated, others less. Some come with a scrambled seam, others with the slanted or vertical sewing position. He uses the dexterity of speed, sewing and releases for striking effects: on turns, he unleashes the straighter (where he presses his middle finger hard on the ball when letting go), on low slopes, he buys rebound (as in Kanpur), on more bouncy tracks, he exchanges skids, giving the illusion of an uneven rebound. He’s an assassin with a master’s degree in psychology. He plays with their mind – when they expect him to spin he doesn’t, he blows the ball when they expect it to spin, and when they expect it to spin. ‘she shoots, he makes them jump. So, it is more subtle than it looks.

If fate had more original designs, the two Patels could have fought for the same place, not only for their country, but also for their States. Ajaz has Gujarati roots – the family is originally from Bharuch, before his father moved to Mumbai and from there to Auckland when Ajaz was only eight years old. At home, they continue to speak Gujarati, without accents or assignments.

Axar comes from Nadiad, about 140 kilometers from Bharuch, after Vadodara. Like Ajaz, he didn’t start his cricket journey as a left arm spinner, but as a hard hitter, aka Nadiad ka Jayasuriya. They could have crossed paths on the County Tour as well – in 2018, Axar played four games for Durham; the following year Ajaz spent almost a year in England, appearing in a handful of Surrey Championship games and turning out for Yorkshire.

The cricket test was therefore beyond their wildest imaginations. The two were hardly ever on the web of contention. India was spoiled for choice – apart from Ravi Ashwin and Jadeja, there was Kuldeep Yadav. New Zealand hardly thought of a spinner, staffed as it was with a trio of highly skilled test seamers. But 2021 has grouped the two unlikely in their fate. Perhaps, for the only time.

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