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Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) pacer Harshal Patel is not Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami. Still, the Haryana seamer has emerged as one of the go-to man for Virat Kohli in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).

The Haryana seamer has bagged 26 wickets in this IPL season and is getting closer to breaking Dwayne Bravo’s record of 32. The 30-year-old has already got the most wickets for RCB in a single IPL season. With three more league games to go, he has a real chance to go for Bravo’s record, set in 2013.

Harshal is not an express pace, but he is doing precisely what Dwayne Bravo has done for MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) over the years. He bowls the difficult overs (18th and 20th), mixes his slower balls, hits the hard length with his stock delivery, and is reaping the rewards.

In the 2021 IPL, he saw highs and lows. He bagged his maiden five-wicket against Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL opener earlier in April. He came back to haunt MI again with a match-winning hat-trick a couple of days ago.

Not to forget, he was taken to the cleaners by CSK’s Ravindra Jadeja. The wily seamer conceded 37 runs in an over, the most by any bowler in the IPL. It has happened with Harshal in the season, when he is running away with the purple cap.

Harshal blossoming under Kohli’s captaincy

This is Harshal Patel’s ninth season in the IPL, but he never got the desired run. But under Kohli’s leadership, he knows his exact role and is repaying his captain’s faith.

Harshal Patel has been brilliant at death, and he is ready to do the tough job he had planned meticulously.

“When I was traded from Delhi Capitals, I was told what role I will play for the franchise,” Patel said during the 1st half of the IPL.

“There were clear instructions that I will be bowling in the last two overs (he bowled 18th and 20th). That gave me a lot of clarity. It helped me prepare certain plans against batters and kept my preparations concise.”

Harshal Patel, the captain of Haryana in domestic cricket, believes that change of pace, slow Yorkers, and hitting the hard-length delivery have been his biggest asset.

“Adaptation has always been a key part of my game, and I adapt well to different situations and different conditions. That is something that I pride myself on. The grounds are bigger here, and the wickets are slower. It suits my type of bowling,” said Harshal Patel, before RCB’s match against RR on Wednesday.

From proverbial journeyman to impact player

Harshal Patel, over the years, has been the proverbial journeyman cricketer. First for Gujarat, and since 2011 for Haryana. Performing consistently, but nothing exceptional of note.

In the 2018-2019 Ranji Trophy season, Harshal, primarily a medium-pacer, had taken only 23 wickets from nine games. It seemed the consistency had also deserted him. The 2019 IPL didn’t go according to plans either, as he fractured his hand after playing just two games for Delhi Capitals.

With his 2019 IPL ending prematurely, Harshal got a lot of time to think about his game. He analysed what he was doing, but a few missing links in place, refreshed his approach, and started anew. Something exceptional was just around the corner.

And, the turnaround began with the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, where Harshal started opening the batting for Haryana. With field restrictions in place, Harshal used the long handle well to rake in 374 runs at an average of 31.16 and an impressive strike rate of 165.48. In fact, he was fourth in the list of highest run-getters. The all-rounder in him was also in full bloom. He picked up 19 scalps at an economy of 7.04 to be the joint second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament. Harshal’s heroics led Haryana to the final, where they eventually lost to Karnataka.

After a stellar Mushtaq Ali, Harshal continued his red-hot form in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy. He took 52 wickets in nine games, breaking left-arm spinner Rajinder Goel’s 36-year-old record for the most wickets in a season for Haryana. In addition, while batting at No. 8, he scored 292 runs at an average of 22.46 with two half-centuries to boot.

On not making it into India’s T20 WC squad

Harshal Patel is not losing his sleep over his failure to make the Indian team for the upcoming T20 World Cup, despite a consistent run in the ongoing IPL.

“I don’t have any regret anytime. The decisions I have taken in life have been taken as per my best ability at that time. And when it comes to selection, that is completely out of my hand,” he said.

“There is only one goal for me, whichever team I play, be it a club or IPL team, or when I will play for the country or when I play for Haryana, I try to put a positive impact in the game from whichever situation with ball or bat,” he stressed

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