Major teams India, Asia XI, Gujarat, India Green, Indian Board President’s XI, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals
Playing role Bowler
Batting style Right-hand bat
Few medium-pacers had generated as much hype before bowling a ball in first-class, let alone international cricket as Munaf Musa Patel, the young boy from the little town of Ikhar in Bahruch, Gujarat did in early 2003. Kiran More, now chairman of selectors, had seen him bowl in the nets and sent him straight to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai to train under TA Sekhar and Dennis Lillee. Soon he was being hailed as the fastest man in Indian cricket. Then, even as Baroda and Gujarat vied for his services, Patel chose Mumbai, after Sachin Tendulkar had taken special interest in him and had a word with the authorities in the Mumbai Cricket Association. Even then Patel’s first-class career was anything but smooth as he spent more time recovering from various injuries than actually playing.
Strongly built though not overly tall, a wild mane flowing behind him as he bustles up to the bowling crease, gathering momentum before releasing the ball with a windmill-whirl of hands, Patel’s priority is to bowl quick. And it was this that first caught the eye about three years ago. Now he has added reverse swing to his repertoire and has troubled batsmen with a well-directed yorker. After plenty of speculation and close calls he finally received a call from the national selection panel for the second Test against England in March 2006, after an impressive performance for the Board President’s XI saw him pick up 10 English wickets for 91 runs. Things just got better a couple of weeks later against England at Mohali when he ended with 7 for 97, the best performance by an Indian fast bowler on Test debut. A consistent series against West Indies later that year meant he had established himself as a regular member of the side.
Then came the lull as Munaf, like most of India’s new crop of fast bowlers, began to fade away after a good start. He lost pace at an alarming rate, and seemed intent on rebranding himself as back-up seamer as opposed to pace spearhead. He soon lost his place in the Test side, and despite a handful of average ODI performances, was a left-field selection for the New Zealand tour in 2009. He did a reasonable job in India’s win in Hamilton, but a schedule packed with the occasional home Test in between ODIs and Twenty20s meant he rarely stayed in the radar for long. Injuries to Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth in the lead-up to the Sri Lanka tour in 2010 gave him another opportunity to impress.