Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel is fast closing in on 800 first-class wickets but still looking very much forward rather than back with the resounding message to Bears fans: "I'm not done yet."
Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel is fast closing in on 800 first-class wickets but still looking very much forward rather than back with the resounding message to Bears fans: “I’m not done yet.”
Patel will lead Warwickshire into Specsavers County Championship action against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston next Sunday needing six wickets to reach 800.
I’m so lucky to have the job I have – the best job in the world. It’s a lot of hurt and a lot of fun, a lot of tough times, some pain and a lot of success.Jeetan Patel
Six in the last championship game, against Middlesex at Lord’s, took him to 794 so the same again next week would make him only the fifth New Zealander, after Sir Richard Hadlee, Clarrie Grimmett, Sydney Smith and former Bears paceman Tom Pritchard, to reach 800.
The 39-year-old has travelled far since taking his very first first-class wicket in 1999 – that of John Aiken whom he had caught at short leg bowling for Wellington against Auckland. He wasted no time adding victim number two as Lou Vincent perished the same way next ball. Almost two decades later, now he is targeting number 795 – and beyond.
“A while ago someone said to me ‘you’re closing in on 750 wickets – will that be it for you?'” Patel said. “It made me think about all the time and effort I’ve put in to the first-class game and I said ‘I’m not done yet.’ Now if I get to 800 then great – but I’m still not done.
“I remember my first wicket very well. It was a great moment because my dad flew up to watch the game and was in the stand. At that time we only played five games a season so it would have taken me a long time to get to 800!
“It has been a long slog with a lot of days which brought none-fors but also plenty of four-fors plus and those days are special when you really contribute to the team. That’s all I’ve ever strived to do.
“I’m so lucky to have the job I have – the best job in the world. It’s a lot of hurt and a lot of fun, a lot of tough times, some pain and a lot of success. So many emotions go through it with a lot of sacrifice not just from myself but from my family. I have benefited from a lot of belief and trust from others and have been very lucky and blessed to have been given the opportunity to do all this stuff.
“Now I’m close to 800 which is great because every player likes to knock off milestones but, as captain of Warwickshire, I’m thinking much more about the future and where this great club is going.”
In his first season as captain, Patel has steered the Bears to the top of the championship Division Two table just beyond the halfway stage. He would love to lead the team straight back up to the First Division at the first attempt but sees his role as much broader than mere positions in league tables.
“I am really enjoying the role of captain,” he said. “I said when I took it on it’s time for me to give something back because the club has given me so much. I am trying as hard as I can because the future of this club, and where it goes after I have left, is very important to me and this is my time to try to influence that and leave my mark.
“You will always win games and lose games but for me it is the attitude that matters most and I like the attitude that this group of Warwickshire players is starting to show. They are starting to believe in themselves and in the squad and the direction we want to go and that, for me, is very pleasing. We have a lot of work to do yet but are making progress. There is a positive feeling in the changing room.
“I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of effort and attitude of the boys. They would run through brick walls to win a game for the Bears and that’s got nothing to do with me, it’s just the way they are, which is great.”
Warwickshire will resume championship action on Sunday on top of Division Two but Patel knows that will count for nothing if they don’t sustain the quality that has seen them win five of their first eight games.
“We’ve had a strong championship season so far but can we keep pushing forward?” he said. “We need to, because teams are hot on our tail and if we want to keep getting better, and win Division One at some point in the future, then we’ve got to get out of this division first.”
If that happens next month, no-one will be more pleased than Patel.
As for that 800-wicket milestone – well, it’s a fine achievement but one which go on the list for ‘Jeets’ to reflect upon with pride much later on.
“They are only milestones and someone will surpass them at some point,” he said. “But I guess when I look back on my career I’ll be able to say ‘you did an okay job mate – you went to work and did your job and you did okay.’
“I’m just very grateful to Warwickshire for the opportunity to keep playing.”