Harshal Patel © Getty Images
Harshal Patel is best known for taking back-to-back eight-wicket hauls in the quarter-final and semi-final in his debut Ranji Trophy season © Getty Images

With 11 wickets against Rajasthan in the ongoing round of the Ranji Trophy 2014-15, Harshal Patel announced his return to the domestic circuit. Shiamak Unwalla talks to the man who is best known for taking back-to-back eight-wicket hauls in the quarter-final and semi-final in his debut Ranji Trophy season, and will soon play his fourth Indian Premier League (IPL) season for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

CricketCountry (CC): Harshal, congratulations on your match haul. You just took 11 wickets in the match against Rajasthan. You must feel good about yourself.

Harshal Patel (HP): Yeah, I do. Coming out of injury and peaking at the right time for the team feels good.

CC: What injury were you suffering from?

HP: I had a stress reaction in my shin bone, and was out for about two months because of that… I’m fully fit now. I had played the first game (against Delhi) but I was not 100 percent at that time. Since then I have recovered fully.

CC: You had a slightly slow start to the season with just a couple of wickets from the first two games. What was going through your mind before this match?

HP: Since I was out for two months I hadn’t bowled much in the nets. From not bowling for two months to coming back to a match situation was obviously very difficult. So I was giving myself some time to get back into rhythm. Before this game I had bowled enough to get back into rhythm, and I was very confident before this game.

CC: Your stock ball is the out-swinger. Have you been working on other variations as well?

HP: Usually in the longer format I try and bowl as many out-swingers as I can, as well as the odd ball that nips back in, which gets me a lot of wickets. So those are the only two variations that I work on. Then there is the bouncer which comes into play very rarely on a seaming track.

CC: This is your fifth year of First-Class cricket. When you look back now, how much do you think you’ve grown since your debut?

HP: I have grown a lot. I’ve faced a lot of injuries. I’ve done well, then got injured, then again done well, and again got injured. So momentum hasn’t really been on my side at all times. But being injured teaches you a lot of things, and I’ve certainly grown a lot as a bowler and a cricketer.

CC: You just said that you tend to face a lot of injuries. Where do these injuries come from? Does it have anything to do with your bowling action?

HP: No, it’s not a perfect science to be honest. Injuries happen even if you do everything that you need to do. I train with the best trainers in the world, especially for cricket. But injuries are something that you can’t control. You can do as much as you can, but it’s not something that is in your hands.

AB de Villiers doesn’t bat in the nets the way he bats in the match. He is usually a very calm net batsman.

CC: You are also known to be an excellent fielder. Is fielding something you work a lot on or does it come naturally to you?

HP: No it doesn’t come naturally to me. The more you field, the more you practice, the better you become. Being a good fielder is more about being fit. So if I’m fit, I’ll move well on the field.

CC: Let’s talk a bit about IPL now. You have been retained by RCB for the fourth season in a row. They obviously have a lot of faith in you, but you still haven’t become a permanent member of the playing XI. How do you plan on breaking into the team this year?

HP: Actually it’s not something that I can control. I can only go there and do my best. The selection process is very complex in the IPL. So that is something I don’t get myself into. I just go there and try to give my 100 per cent. I try to find out what the team requires of me, and do that all the time.

CC: RCB seems like a really fun team to be with. What is it like to share the dressing room with guys like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villiers?

HP: “Honestly, it’s a very light atmosphere. The big guys are really down-to-earth, level-headed guys who joke around and make you feel comfortable.” And I’ve been playing with most of these guys for three-four years now; I’ve developed chemistry with them. I know them well enough to joke around with them as well, so it feels like a family.

CC: Who do you get along with the best in the team?

HP: All the guys, honestly. Off the field we’re usually doing some team events and parties, things like that. The team is together all the time. We don’t really get a lot of individual time, but I do have a few close friends as well like Jaydev Unadkat, Sachin Rana, and Yuzvendra Chahal.

CC: You have fellow pace bowlers like Varun Aaron, Mitchell Starc, and Ashok Dinda in the side. How much do you pacers interact? Do they give you tips?

HP: We do talk about cricket after the game when we get together for a drink or something. When we sit around and talk about the game, a lot of things come up. You learn a lot from that; the mental preparation, the mindset you need to have. These are the things you can learn from the big players.

CC: You must bowl a lot to Gayle and de Villiers in the net. Do you have any pointers that the Indian bowlers could use when they face them in the World Cup?

HP: (Laughs) AB [de Villiers] actually doesn’t bat in the nets the way he bats in the match. He is usually a very calm net batsman. I don’t really have much experience bowing to him in a match situation. The only thing you can do as a bowler is what you do best and what you feel confident of executing.

CC: What about Gayle?

HP: You have to get him out early, at the start of the innings. That is when he struggles the most — against the new ball. He tries to knock around a few balls for singles and see the new ball off first. Once he settles at the wicket, you will go for runs. So the first few overs are the most crucial ones to him. Bowling within the stumps is your best bet against Chris.

CC: What has been your most memorable moment with RCB?

HP: Getting Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket was my most memorable moment. That is something I will remember for a very long time.

CC: Take us through that dismissal. What was going through your mind before bowling to him, and what did you feel just after?

HP: I didn’t really feel anything special at the time. When I look back now obviously it feels good. Now that he has retired I am not going to bowl to him ever again in a competitive game.

CC: Okay, on to a lighter topic. Who is the team joker?

HP: It has to be Virat [Kohli].

CC: Even though he is the captain?

HP: Yeah, he jokes around a lot.

CC: What is Kohli like off the field?

HP: He is laidback at times, but all in all he is a very intense guy.

CC: Who is the best dancer of the team?

HP: (Laughs) It has to be Chris [Gayle]!

CC: Let’s have a few rapid fire questions now. Using just one word, describe the following players:

CC: Muttiah Muralitharan…

HP: Street-smart.

CC: Mitchell Starc…

HP: Fiery.

CC: Yuvraj Singh…

HP: Confident.

CC: Harshal Patel…                   

HP: (Laughs) I don’t know. That is something you guys can say better than me.

CC: Who do you think will be India’s main players at the ICC World Cup 2015?

HP: In the bowling department Umesh Yadav, and in the batting department Rohit Sharma, Kohli, and MS Dhoni.

CC: What does your gut say about India’s chances at the World Cup?

HP: Usually going into big tournaments when you play against quality sides you tend to experiment a lot with the combinations. The bowlers and batsmen tend to experiment a lot as well. So I get the feeling that the tri-series was like an experiment for them. Hopefully they will pull their socks up and do well in the World Cup.

CC: And finally, what is your goal in life?

HP: I want to play good, quality cricket for as long as I can. I want to contribute as much as I can for whichever team I play for. During the journey if any junior players come along, I would like to share my experiences with them. I just want to enjoy this beautiful game that I love, and play for as long as I can.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)