I want to play for India in 2 years: Niraj Patel

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
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Rajkot: Gujarat has a long-standing history of producing some top classleft-hand cricketers like Salim Durrani, Deepak Shodhan and KarsanGhavri. The latest one to join this bandwagon is Niraj Patel.

The 20-year-old Patel, who made his Ranji Trophy debut in 1999, is regarded as a bright prospect to don India's colours. He came into the limelight after his crucial knock in the final of the Under-19 WorldCup. Since then there has been no looking back.

Patel played a gem of an innings in one of the matches of the ChallengerTrophy series at Ahmedabad . His efforts were praised by ex-Indianskipper Mohammed Azharuddin, who was the captain for that match.

At present, Patel is learning the finer points of the game under the watchful eyes of National Cricket Academy director Hanumant Singh in Bangalore. While in Ahmedabad recently, he spoke about his passion for the game and ambitions. Here is an excerpt of the interview:

Were you very happy with your performance in the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka?

Obviously I was happy. Especially in the final against Sri Lanka, Iplayed positively and took a few chances. My approach influencedReetinder Singh Sodhi, who was with me at the other end of the crease.

Are you happy with your performance in the first-class scene till now?

I think so. In my second year, I scored a century against Saurashtra atRajkot. It boosted my confidence to play some big innings.

Do you rate your innings in the Challenger Trophy as the best?

Yes. Because in the first game, I wasn't selected and for the secondmatch, I was playing in my home ground (Ahmedabad). The spectators'expectations were very high and also I wanted to prove a point. I wasreally happy that I hit 73 not out of just 64 balls against somequality bowling.

What did your captain Mohammed Azharuddin say after your scintillating knock?

He had advised me to play my natural game and to play the ball on itsmerit. When I came back to the dressing room, he was very happy with myperformance and said "well done, boy".

Do you want to work on your bowling skills?

Yes, I love to bowl. I do bowl in the Ranji Trophy and I also did bowlin the Challenger Trophy. I think in contemporary cricket, you need tolearn that art too. I know to what extent it is proving useful to cricketers like Saurav Ganguly, Ajay Jadeja and Sachin Tendulkar.

Since Gujarat hardly makes it to the super-league level in the RanjiTrophy, do you think playing for Gujarat will hamper your career?

I don't think so. If you are a good and talented player, you are bound to be selected even if you are playing for Gujarat.

What is your ambition?

My ambition is to play for India within the next two years. I think thecoming season will be very vital and decisive for me. I am confident ofproving myself.

Comment on you experience in the National Cricket Academy?

I think, I will be a much better cricketer after my stint in theAcademy. Mr Hanumant Singh is doing a fantastic job and I must say theAcademy is a blessing for upcoming cricketers like me.

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