Axar Patel has attributed his rapid growth as a batter over the last 12 months to a change in mindset besides crediting Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting for the transformation.
Axar has come of age as a batter, coming up with crucial performances across formats in the last three months.
On Saturday, he scored a potentially match-changing 74 while batting alongside Ravichandran Ashwin (37). The duo shared a 114-run stand for the eighth wickets to help India reach 262, just one run short of Australias first innings total.
His 84 in the first Test in Nagpur helped India get to 400 as the hosts effectively batted Australia out of the game.
“At Delhi Capitals, I talked a lot with Ricky on how I can get better with my batting. Even in the Indian team, I was talking to the batters. I felt I was not realising my potential with 30s and 40s. I was not able finish the game.
“So, it was a lot about the mindset. Sometimes you can relax as an all-rounder if you have taken wickets, you could get casual. So I thought I could improve on that and convert my 30s and 40s into match-winning scores.
“That is how I think now and that has made a big difference,” said Axar after stumps on day two of the second Test.
Axar and Ashwin also got high praise from Australian spinner Nathan Lyon who feels the Indian spin duo is good enough to bat in the top-six of any international side.
“When I am bowling, we think how the batter is making things difficult for us. I use the same technique while batting. If the bowler is landing all the balls in the same area, the batters keep defending confidently. While batting, we also try to defend confidently and force him to change his tactics. Having a bowlers mindset helps in batting as well.” With India reeling at 139 for seven, Axar and Ashwin were feeling the heat.
The left-arm spinner said they had the confidence of stitching a big partnership with the pitch getting easier to bat on.
“There was pressure as we were behind in the game. So, it was important to get as close to the Australian target as possible. When Ashwin and I got set, we thought the wicket was getting easier to bat on and felt we could forge a long partnership. Eventually we ended just one run behind Australia. So felt good about that.
“Coming from white-ball cricket, I was in good touch in Nagpur as well. I am just carrying that confidence and trying to be consistent,” said Axar, who is playing ahead of Kuldeep Yadav in the team because of his superior batting abilities.
With Australia racing to 61 for one in 12 overs in their second innings, the Indians will have to rework their plans on day three.
Axar said his team would be comfortable chasing anything in the range of 250.
“The sooner we bowl them out the better. If we can stop them between 220-250, we can defend that while batting on day four. For that, we will have to bowl well because the wicket is getting slower with the game progressing.
“We will have to work really hard to get wickets, it wont be easy for sure. We will have to vary our pace to test the batters.
“Towards the end of play, they (Australia) were aggressive and we noticed that. At stumps, we were thinking about how to do things differently and try to stop them.” On missing out on a deserving hundred, he added: “The ball was new so I thought I could take my chances with Shami and Siraj bhai left. I wanted to take my chances. Last time I got out on 84 while batting (in Nagpur) so wanted to take my chances (to get to hundred).”
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