Jeetan Patel has a very simple farewell message for Warwickshire's Members and supporters. It is the biggest and most heartfelt 'thank you.'
The valedictory season of Patel’s wonderful Bears career turned out to be just a brief T20 campaign conducted in empty grounds.
He is the first to point out that, compared to what many people have suffered during the pandemic, being prevented from playing cricket does not even register. But it is still a shame that the final throes of his momentous contribution to the Bears were conducted without spectators – and that he did not get an opportunity to personally thank the fans with whom he always enjoyed such a great rapport.
Denied the chance to do so in person at his beloved Edgbaston, Patel is delighted to do it now, in a farewell interview that brought tears to the eyes of this proud Kiwi and true Bear.
“Warwickshire’s fans have been fantastic to me,” he said. “We all need help and support along the way as we try to do our jobs to the best of our ability and I have been lucky enough to have the Bears fans behind me every step of the way.
“I love their passion for the game. The Bears fans keep coming back, not just because they love Warwickshire and Edgbaston, but because they love cricket and that’s where we are on the same page – we all love this great game.Jeetan Patel
“One of my traits is my passion and I know that sometimes it lets me down. Sometimes I get overwrought by it all and over-passionate, but I genuinely care. I care for everyone within the group and I care for how we perform. I don’t like substandard performances through laziness, it’s not who I am. That passion came from the four-year-old who was thrown a cricket ball and thought it was fun and wanted some more of it. I will never lose that passion.
“A lot of times I have wished I was on social media and this is one of them so that I could thank everyone, but I’m not, partly because of my passion. I think it would take over in some of the comments I’d make!
“But I hope the Bears fans know how much I have appreciated their backing. I wish I could have walked off Edgbaston one last time and shaken every single one by the hand and said ‘thank you for giving me a career and giving me and my family a wonderful life here in the game I love.'”
Patel’s last season with the Bears was hugely truncated by the pandemic, but he admits that lockdown did have an upside for him. As he prepares to tackle the huge decisions which come with moving on from a playing career which has consumed your whole adult life so far, enforced lockdown gave him some rare time to think.
“Until lockdown, I didn’t really want to think about the future because I was still thinking about what’s next,” he said. “As a player it was always about what’s next. Who are we playing next and how am I going to help us win?
“Then lockdown came along and I got to spend a lot of time with my family and also a lot of time with my memories. I knew this was going to be my last year playing cricket, so lockdown was a really good opportunity to go for some long runs and have time to properly think about everything; about what I had failed at and why, and all the things I had achieved and why.Jeetan Patel
“Because of the current climate, I just don’t know what the future holds. I’ll try to finish my coaching levels and hopefully at some point that will help me get a coaching role. I’m hoping there could be a role in England. After my taste of coaching with the England team, I’d love to work with those spinners. First-class level upwards is good pace to work with spinners who ultimately want the same things as I do, to be the best they can be and have fun playing cricket.
“In the immediate term, when I get home, I’ll have to go into isolation for two weeks before I go into the public domain. Then it will be family time.”
Ah yes, family time. So much of that has to be sacrificed when you play cricket for a living 12 months a year. And never mind the glory and kudos and rewards that come with a career in professional sport, for Jeets, that family time, with wife Kate, daughter Niya and son Ari, is the most precious of all.
“Lockdown really taught me how important are my biggest supporters – my family,” he said. “This year Niya wrote me a Father’s Day Card that really touched me because she said ‘thank you for going away to work, even though it means you can’t see us.’ That was hard to take, in a way, but I knew where she was coming from. That part of being a cricketer is tough, but everyone makes sacrifices to compete at the highest level.
“Kate is just amazing. She has always given up time for me to do what I need to do and now part of my retirement from playing is about flipping that a little bit. She has sacrificed a lot for me – now it’s my turn to reciprocate.”
At a time of great uncertainty in the world, one thing is for sure: Jeets and Kate will always carry with them the love and best wishes of all connected to the Bears.