Jeetan Patel will return to where it all began for him in English cricket when he leads Warwickshire against Yorkshire in the Specsavers County Championship at Clifton Park, York, next week.
Club captain Patel is now very much a Bears legend. Since first joining the county in 2009, the off-spinner has taken 696 in all formats for them and helped them win every trophy available.
But his first foray in England arrived six years before his arrival at Edgbaston with a summer in York, in 2003, when he outlined his potential by taking 40 wickets at 21.27 apiece and scoring 267 runs, including a best of 73, at 24.27.
It is a summer on which he reflects with great pleasure – and which he believes helped mould him as cricketer and person.
“As soon as I saw in the fixture list that we would be playing at York I was really excited,” Patel said. “It will be great to go back and reconnect with a lot of friends that I made back in the day.
“It’s a lovely city and a lovely ground and we will be playing against one of the toughest sides in the country, so it will be a special week.
“I’ve got some great memories of my time there. I think I had an okay season and certainly didn’t set the world alight but it was great life experience.
“It was my first time away from home, in a different country and I was having to fend for myself and fortunate to be around a great bunch of lads who looked after me. It’s been so long now that I can’t remember everyone’s name but I am sure I will recognise plenty of faces.
” I helped out on the ground, poorly, but I was still helping out, and certainly have a lot of fond memories and look forward to going back and sharing a beer with them – and hopefully we can take some points out of the game as well.”
Patel’s future in English cricket was to lie at Edgbaston where he stands alongside Allan Donald as the club’s greatest overseas contributor. His input on and off the field has been immense (and remains as great as ever with 22 wickets in the last two championship games) – all underpinned by a true sense of the club’s history and a genuine pride to have a role within that.
Patel immediately bought into the Bears, just as he bought into the culture of English life which he first sampled, and took an immediate liking to, in York.
“I wasn’t on a lot of money but that wasn’t what I was there for,” he said. “What I did was learn about the lifestyle in England which is so different to New Zealand. In New Zealand it’s all about cafes and meeting people and friends there, whereas here it’s all about going to the pub and sharing stories over a pint.
“I was a youngster learning my trade and wanting to get out and about and give things a go and that summer really grew me as a person. I’m very grateful to everyone at York for the grounding they gave me.”