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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 09:51 GMT
Patel puts fire into India attack
By Ayanjit Sen
BBC Delhi Bureau

Munaf Patel
Patel could be the spearhead for which India have been searching

India paceman Munaf Patel hopes his impressive Test debut is just the start of an illustrious career.

After his seven wickets in the second Test win, the next step is the third match in Mumbai, starting on Saturday.

"The wickets helped fast bowling and getting Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen's wickets in the first innings was very special.

"Now I want to play and perform for my country for as long as I can," the 22-year-old told the BBC.

Apart from his pace, Patel's control of line and length and his ability to reverse swing the ball were particularly impressive.

But England should not have been surprised by his performance, as he took 10 wickets against them for a Board President's XI earlier in the tour.

Surprisingly, that did not earn him a place in India's Test squad and it was Sri Sreesanth who took the new ball with Irfan Pathan at Nagpur.

Sreesanth showed plenty of potential in that match, but a flu virus put him out of the Mohali match and gave Patel his chance.

Born in the small town of Ikhar in the Gujarat province, Patel had to journey to the big city to make his mark in the game.

He trained under former India seam bowler TA Sekhar and Australia Test great Dennis Lillee at the MRF Pace Foundation in Madras (Chennai), which was established almost 20 years ago.

Dennis Lillee
Lillee's tutelage has benefitted bowlers from all over the world

The Foundation's goal is to "scientifically hone" the skills of young cricketers, giving them advice on diet and exercise, as well as the mechanics of bowling.

A typical week will include swimming, gym work and yoga, as well as net sessions.

"I think my stint at the Pace Foundation helped me immensely in improving my skills as a bowler," said Patel.

In 2003, Lillee hailed Patel as the fastest bowler in India - an assessment which Sekhar endorses.

"I am sure by the end of this year he is going to cross the 150km/hour [93 mph] mark," Sekhar told the BBC.

"When he first came to the Academy he had the height and the build and the pace, but had a mixed action and his run-up was not smooth.

"We worked on a few things - his fitness, changed his bowling action and his running technique."

It certainly paid off at Mohali where Patel found an extra gear on the final day to run through England's tail and leave his side with a target of only 144.

"He used his reverse swing and yorkers effectively and I think it was just the right time to bring him into the Indian team.

MUNAF PATEL'S RECORD
Born: 12 July 1983
First-class record
25 matches, 95 wickets, average 20.54, best bowling figures 6-50
Domestic one-day record
25 matches, 31 wickets, average 27.00, best bowling figures 3-23

"He will be a great prospect for India on their forthcoming tour to the West Indies," Sekhar added.

Former seam bowler Madan Lal, a member of India's 1983 World Cup winning side, agrees.

"He has the potential to get wickets and I think experience will make him an even better bowler. India can now surely count on him," he commented.

With Patel, Pathan, Sreesanth and RP Singh all aged 23 or under, India have a quartet of seam bowlers who should serve them well for several years to come.

So does this mean they will turn away from their traditional strength in spin bowling once Anil Kumble, who took his 500th Test wicket in Mohali, decides to call it a day?

Sekhar thinks not.

"Fast bowlers are coming up, but spin is also an important aspect of the Indian attack. There should be a healthy balance in this. That is when a team succeeds," he said.




SEE ALSO
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England in India 2006
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