How Ricky Ponting Helped in Axar Patel’s Rise as a Solid Batter

It was with the ball that Axar Patel made quite an impression after making his Test debut in 2021. A left-arm spinner, Patel’s record has been terrific: 50 wickets from 12 Tests at an average of 17.16 including five five-wicket hauls.

However, during the Border Gavaskar Trophy he didn’t have much role to play with the ball as the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared 47 wickets to engineer a 2-1 series win for India.

Axar still left a major impact, producing three vital innings with the bat, with few former cricketers even claiming those contributions helped India avoid a series defeat.

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In the first Test in Nagpur, Axar’s 84 was the second-highest score from either side as India won in less than three days. Then in the 2nd Test in Delhi, he top-scored for India with 74 off 115 to bail them out of deep trouble and helped set up a six-wicket win.

In the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad, his 79 runs played a significant role in driving India to a safe position from where they couldn’t lose.

And these innings, barring the one at Ahmedabad, came on challenging pitches. However, Axar wasn’t always a reliable batter.

During IPL 2013, he was first signed up by Mumbai Indians but was released despite not playing in a single match for the franchise. It was at Kings XI Punjab (Punjab Kings) that he made his IPL debut and thus began his steady rise.

Incidentally, Axar’s first experience of being in an IPL franchise setup was when MI were led by the legendary Ricky Ponting who now is the head coach of Delhi Capitals where the India allrounder has now taken his game to another level.

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Ponting has recalled how he worked with Axar to improve his batting.

“I’ve known Axar for a long time and he was only a young boy in the squad at Mumbai when I first went there,” Ponting told ICC. “I’ve known that there’s been a certain amount of batting skill there that really, apart from the last couple of years, he hadn’t really been showing at IPL level or even at international level.”

“There were a few little technique changes that we made with him. We just opened up his hips and his shoulders a little bit. So he was a bit more chest-on towards the right-arm fast bowlers. If there was ever a weakness in his game, it was the short ball that was sort of directed at his body. The reason that he was a bit weak in that area was he was too side-on, and the ball was always sort of in behind his right shoulder,” Ponting added.

Ponting said they worked to improve Axar’s on-side play.

“We just tried to open him up a little bit, which gave him a little bit more access to the ball. He’s always been a beautiful offside player. You know, his cover driving and cutting is as good as anyone’s. And if anything, he was just a little bit too blocked off to be able to score well on the leg side.

“We tweaked a few things there and because he’s such a good young person to work with, and he’s obviously very talented, so therefore he was a fast learner and was able to pick things up really quickly and change his technique enough to show really, really good improvement really early on,” he said.

Ponting is happy to to see Axar’s progress and feels he can bat slightly ahead in the batting order, both at the IPL and Test level.

“I want to get a bit more out of him at the Delhi Capitals this year, that’s for sure. A few times last year we sort of batted him up a little bit higher. I think he’s good enough to bat No.6 probably in an IPL team. He’s good enough to bat at six or seven in a Test match team as well,” Ponting said.

“The higher he bats in first-class cricket, and if he plays some more Test cricket even outside of India, then I think he could hold down a six or seven spot in a Test team as well. He’s the sort of player that I think could make a lot of first-class hundreds. That’s where it’s got to start for him, maybe get some support in his state team and maybe bat a little bit up the order there,” he added.

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