Immediately after his retirement in 2020, Parthiv Patel got a call from Akash Ambani, the owner of Mumbai Indians. It didn’t take him seconds to say yes to Ambani’s offer of joining his franchise as Talent Scout. Former India wicket-keeper was part of the victorious Mumbai Indians team in the 2015 and 2017 title win and Patel is very proud of that accomplishment. However, for the first time in his career, Patel is not watching the IPL from a player’s lens. “Of course, a lot has changed for me. To start with there is no pressure to win. I am watching this IPL purely as a broadcaster where I have to keep an eye on all the players and every team’s strategies and not just focus on one particular team,” says Patel, in an exclusive chat with cricket.com.
Getting an offer as Talent Scout from the most successful IPL franchise was an immensely pleasant feeling for Gujarat’s only Ranji Trophy-winning captain. “If you look at my career or numbers, I was not a great player. Honestly speaking, just an average or maybe above average player but certainly not an extraordinary one. However, I know that my game awareness (is second to none). So, it’s good to be noticed for that as MI is a franchise where you have to deliver,” says the 36-year-old who is part of the commentary team for the host broadcaster.
One just couldn’t resist asking for his opinion on this seemingly never-ending debate on the Rohit Sharma and the Virat Kohli style of captaincy in the IPL since he has worked very closely with both of them. While Rohit’s team has triumphed on five occasions in the final, Virat’s is yet to win a single tournament. “I don’t think a captain alone can win you the IPL trophy. There are lots of people involved in the entire show. And that is same with MI. Virat has an outstanding record as an India captain. You can’t blame Virat singularly. That is unfair. (Director of cricket) Mike Hessen and Simon Katich (Head coach) should come under fire because they are also responsible for RCB’s poor show,” argues Patel.
How can any captain escape such criticism? “Is Kohli responsible for that?” retorts the former RCB opener. “He doesn’t sit on the auction table for the RCB. That is a very important task and getting it right during auctions is not easy,” adds Patel.
It is well-documented now that Mumbai Indians have a very different culture from the other teams. What separates them from the other teams are not the financial resources but the attitude of the five-time champions. “The mentality of winning and the mindset of being the No.1 all the time is staggering. I know that every team wants to win but MI wants it very badly and that is what separates them from the rest,” reveals Patel, who has represented a total of six teams in his 13 years of association with the most high-profile league in the world.
MS Dhoni’s phenomenal success as wicket-keeper captain has encouraged more teams to give the captaincy responsibility to young keepers. The latest in this league is the Delhi Capitals’ Rishabh Pant. “The way Pant has won Test matches single-handedly is a revelation because we all know that a batter can only win an ODI or a T20 purely from his bat. But, he did it in Test matches consistently. What has delighted me further is the outstanding improvement in his keeping,” says Patel while applauding the move by DC to appoint Pant when he has just truly arrived in international cricket. For the record, Kohli and Rohit were also very young when they got the captaincy in 2013 and so was Dhoni.
Patel who made his Test debut in 2002 as a 17-year old kid is a witness to many changes cricket has gone through in the last two decades. Yet, he feels that the role of a wicketkeeper-batsman has not changed much in the IPL. “You are always expected to play as an all-rounder if you are a keeper. What perhaps may have changed a bit is that now as a keeper-batsman one has to be very flexible with batting positions like Ishan Kishan. You should be willing to bat anywhere that is something a young keeper has to keep in mind,” says Patel.
In his new role as cricket expert, Parthiv is not just keeping an eye on the performances of young wicket-keepers. He is keenly following two of the youngsters who are not part of the Mumbai Indians' set-up. “I think this is a very important season for someone like Shubman Gill. He is very talented and should have a great season. Another player is DC opener Prithvi Shaw for whom this IPL is a very important one. Lots of questions were raised after he came back from Australia. Shaw is a very talented batsman and made a good comeback in the Vijay Hazare trophy (for Mumbai). He has started with a fine knock in his very first match but needs to maintain the consistency,” says Patel who has scored nearly 3000 runs in the IPL.
Many times, players find it tough to cope with the retired life of a cricketer. However, Ahmadabad-based Patel doesn’t regret retiring even if some of the older players than him are still active in the IPL circuit. “Ability is definitely one thing for continuing longer and so is personal motivation which is also a big factor. Personally, I don’t think that I made a bad decision. I didn’t want to sit on the bench in IPL,” signs off Patel saying that he is at peace with himself and relishing his multiple roles in the game after retirement.