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Parthiv Patel appeals. (Courtesy: IANS)

UDRS to DRS, Parthiv Patel’s journey in Tests completes a circle. He was 23 in mid-2008 when he last walked out in the greens wearing the Indian Test cap. It was the infamous Ajantha Mendis series in Sri Lanka when Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) was deployed and India failed miserably dealing with it. Eight years later, the reluctant Indians gave the system, now known as Decision Review System (DRS), a nod and co-incidentally, Parthiv finds himself back in the mix. In the meantime, India played 83 Tests. MS Dhoni became the captain and retired, and with Wriddhiman Saha being the former’s understudy, Parthiv fell behind in contention. LIVE Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 3rd Test at Mohali.

Parthiv will open the batting at Mohali and he did that even at 19, against strong Pakistan bowling unit in 2004. Batting was never a problem with him but his wicketkeeping skills raised doubts. With Dhoni around, there were plenty of options for the second keeper. Parthiv, Saha, Naman Ojha, CM Gautam and Dinesh Karthik have consistently piling big runs in First-Class cricket. And now Aditya Tare, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson are doing the same. Saha edged out all because of his superior wicketkeeping skills. When the selectors threw the rope to the 31-year-old Parthiv to come-in for the injured Saha, there were raised eyebrows as the former had lost his place in the national side in 2004 to Karthik because of his doubtful glovework.

He was reasonable while standing back to pace but the problem lied in standing up to the stumps and was often at the receiving end of the glares by the now Indian coach Anil Kumble, who was the side’s strike bowler back then. In India, how you keep against spin is what matters most. He often failed to judge the speed and flight. Back then, the 17-year-old baby-faced keeper however was the nation’s darling. You only expected him to get better and though sympathies were there, competition could not be ignored. His grit with the bat was there to be seen but the shoddy work behind stumps and the enigma named Dhoni raced past him.

Mohali Test

Cut to present. Parthiv sports the trademark current Team India stubble and still fails to look older. He watched Karun Nair receive the Test cap from Sunil Gavaskar but Parthiv, now the senior-most member of the side, must have felt the same anxiety.

Parthiv deserves every iota of credit for not giving it away and toiling at the domestic level year-after-year. The dividends finally paid.

Mohammed Shami, who made his Test debut more than a decade after Parthiv did, opened the bowling and got the fifth ball to swing away from Cook. Parthiv dove to his right to make a good collect. He was determined and had no intention to let go of this opportunity.

Then arrived the big moment. Alastair Cook, who had been dropped twice, edged a Ravichandran Ashwin off-spin into Parthiv’s gloves. A Test dismissal for Parthiv after 8 long years and that was his 50th; and also his 400th catch in First-Class cricket.

His concentration remained intact against the spin bowlers. Post lunch, when an in-form Ben Stokes danced down the track to break the shackles from Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv pulled off a Dhoni-like stumping. Jadeja had deceived Stokes with the pace and Parthiv standing lot closer to the stumps, whipped off the bails.

It was all good until the 47th over and commentators drew parallels on Dhoni and Parthiv’s technique, which were similar and very different to Saha’s, who stands back and extends his arms to affect such stumpings. The discussion was on when Parthiv failed to grab a faint edge off the in-form Jonny Bairstow. It was a nick no doubt but even if it had not kissed the edge, it was also a stumping opportunity. Ashwin was aghast, so was Parthiv. Bairstow was on 54.

Parthiv’s English counterpart had steadily moved to 89 when a Jayant Yadav ball did not turn enough but angled in enough to take Bairstow’s outside edge to the wicketkeeper s gloves. However it popped out. The horrors of 2000s were back. A sigh of relief for the comeback man (It’s ok, we can call him a man now), Bairstow departed the very next ball.

Memories

I was 16, and he was a few months older when he walked out at Trent Bridge facing the likes of Matthew Hoggard, Dominic Cork, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Craig White. He kept us curious. How on earth this preteen-looking kid manage in this arena?

He did. He played those gritty knocks. With Parthiv the emotional connect of a mid-80s born fan remains. The perennial Chhotu of the side is now the senior most member. None of his teammates had debuted when he played his previous Test and his debut was in a different era. An era when Alec Stewart kept wickets, Steve Waugh captained Australia (then came Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke), Michael Vaughan was rising up the ranks as a batsman and Sachin Tendulkar had 52 international hundreds.

He may not be a new kid on the bloc but the emotions fail to die.

Verdict

Parthiv may not have impressed in his return and in all probability Saha will be back for Mumbai Test. It is a difficult job to keep quality spin bowler in subcontinent track that have varied bounce. In First-Class cricket, Parthiv is not used to Ashwins and Jadejas, so let us give him the ‘benefit of doubt’. For all, even “India’s best wicketkeeper” Saha too dropped Stokes twice at Rajkot.

It is level: Acceptable.

Nevertheless, the version 2.0 of Parthiv is definitely an improved one as a wicketkeeper. How he fares as an opener will be a different story.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully [Twitter] and rivu7 [Facebook].)