It all started with a phone call in the middle of the night.
Jeetan Patel was back at home in New Zealand, in the midst of a season with Wellington early in 2009, when a call he had begun to wonder would ever come did finally arrive.
“I’d been over in England in 2008 with New Zealand on a Test tour and signed with an agent over here to see what might happen,” recalls Patel. “I liked the idea of playing county cricket.
“Nothing came of it for quite a while, but then I got a phone call back home at midnight, I leapt out of bed and it was news that Warwickshire had shown an interest.
“I thought ‘great.’ And it has turned out to be a great part of my career.”
From that telephone call, a mighty Bears career has grown. Patel is now rightly mentioned alongside Allan Donald as the greatest of overseas Bears.
That’s because of his cricket skills, of course, but also much more: his passion for the game and intensity on the field; his desire to help the younger players. And his buying, at a very early stage into what The Bears are all about.
Patel, currently on duty for the Bears in the Specsavers County Championship match against Yorkshire at Headingley, understood and appreciated the history of Warwickshire County Cricket Club – and was proud to be part of it.
“I spoke to Ashley Giles, quickly agreed a deal and was really excited,” he said. “My debut was against Yorkshire and scored my maiden century in a big partnership with Trotty and I loved it. I loved it that no matter what situation the side was in, we would always fight.
“That was the start of it. It just felt I had been given a chance to contribute to something special.”
Not that Patel’s Bears career has been stress-free. It almost ended very early when that first spell was truncated by injury before it could get going.
“We were playing touch rugby in the warm-ups at Worcester when Keith Barker did me with a sidestep and I tore a knee muscle,” he recalls.”New Zealand had a tour to Sri Lanka coming up so I was called straight home.
“I had wanted to make an impact with the Bears and it hadn’t happened so to leave on that note wasn’t great.
“But then in 2011 I got a call to come back over for the Twenty20 and thought ‘right, I’ve got another chance.’ I did okay and ended up playing a couple of championship games and getting picked ahead of Shiv Chanderpaul.
“2011 was a big year for me. I stayed on in England because my visa didn’t expire until mid-August and travelled round with the England team, bowling to them in the nets because they were playing India at the time. From there on it really took off.
“In cricket, as in life, you have to put something in to get something out and I feel I did that that year. And the opportunities have kept coming.”
Patel soon became a cornerstone of the Bears team in all formats. Central to the bowling attack in limited-overs cricket and consistently the most effective spinner in the country in the county championship, he has also scored many match-changing lower-order runs.
He was pivotal to the championship triumph in 2012 and, as seasons passed and his international career began to wind down, in early 2014 took a decision which was to shape the rest of his career.
“I arrived in England for the 2014 season after a bad blip in my international career,” he said. “My wife and I had just travelled halfway across the world with our first child and we didn’t really know what we were doing with a one-month-old daughter, I don’t think many people do first time.
“So it was an interesting time already. Then suddenly I got an email from New Zealand selecting me for a tour to West Indies.
“I thought ‘what would I be going for?’ One last hurrah? I was 34 so, even if I did well on that tour, I couldn’t see my international career stretching more than another six months or a year.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s always great to play for your country, but Warwickshire offered me security and I’m sure anyone with a young family will relate to the fact that security is the most important thing.
“I didn’t want to end my international career on that note but that happens in cricket. Maybe I wasn’t good enough, but one thing that county cricket has taught me is that you go through bad patches and emotional times and you have to bounce back.
“And that decision I took strengthened what was already a great relationship between myself and Warwickshire. We’d won the championship in 2012 which was a fantastic year. We got on a roll and just stayed ahead of the pack, bowling teams out when everything was against us, scoring runs when we shouldn’t have and building so much belief and momentum.
“I remember thinking here I was at a club which has been around for over 100 years and I realised again there is something very special about this place and the people.
“That’s why I love playing for Warwickshire. I love the support we get at Edgbaston. We are lucky to have this amazing ground and that support that we get. Even in championship games we get a lot of people and sometimes they get on our back, but that’s only fair because they care and that’s what we enjoy about our supporters: they genuinely care about us and about how we perform and want us to do well.
“I can only thank the supporters for their backing for me over the years. Not that I’m done yet – I still want to give them a few more things to cheer about.”
There is still plenty of fuel in the 36-year-old’s tank. Of course, one of his spin-bowling Bears predecessors, Billy Quaife, played for the county until he was 56.
So how about it Jeets?
“I’d love to play until 56 if my wife and kids would let me!” he said. “But it’s much more a game for younger guys now. I don’t think you will see many guys playing into their forties.
“But I still want to offer a lot to Warwickshire and to cricket. The club and the sport has given me a lot and I want to give a lot back, whether that’s as a player or a coach. I owe the Bears, and the game, that.”