When India take on United Arab Emirates on Saturday for their Pool B encounter, an interesting sub-plot will be that of Indian-born players Swapnil Patil and Krishna Chandran Karate meeting some former team-mates and colleagues – those who managed to rise to the pinnacle of Indian cricket and feature in the national team for a Cricket World Cup.
Ajinkya Rahane and wicketkeper Swapnil Patil grew up sharing dressing rooms, cricket gear and a common dream – that of being part of the Men in Blue.
They were part of the Mumbai Under-14, 16, 19 and 22 middle orders. They knitted partnerships, knotted wins on the junior circuit to make it to the Ranji probables. But while Rahane would stick on, eventually scoring valuable knocks for the country, Patil gave up.
Ajinkya like a brother to me: Patil
In 2006, the Thane-born wicketkeeper headed to the Gulf to join a business group that had a cricket team, and had an easier time competing in the UAE League. Come Saturday, he will still be featuring on the biggest stage of cricket, but only turning out for his country of adoption and against his country of birth.
Patil said, “As juniors Ajinkya and I have spent much time together. Because of distances in Mumbai, we couldn’t hang out together after games but Ajinkya is like a brother.
“Once I moved from India, we lost contact. But one day at the Dubai airport, he was returning from India’s A tour to South Africa, it was like old times again.
“Actually, not just him, I also have also been in Mumbai sides that had Rohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni.”
Big moment back home in Kerala: Karate
Krishna Chandran Karate hails from a village in Kerala and once featured for a Bangalore college club alongside Stuart Binny, who is a member of the India squad at the World Cup. He has also played alongside S. Sreesanth for Kerala.
“It’s going to be a big moment for people back home,” said the 30-year-old all-rounder, who moved to the Gulf in 2010.
“For people who saw me playing in my shorts, with a tennis ball, on the streets of my home village of Kollengode, it’s going to be a big thing to watch me on TV, playing against India, in a World Cup match, at a ground like the WACA.”
Karate impressed with a fluent 34 against Zimbabwe in their opening World Cup match.
Have plenty to play with: Dhoni
UAE are yet to register their first win in the World Cup, but are above Pakistan on the points table in Pool B on net run rate. Their Pakistan-born batsman Shaiman Anwar scored a maiden World Cup century in the nation’s history in their last match against Ireland; their 43-year-old captain Khurram Khan, also of Pakistani origin, has been consistently scoring runs as well.
India captain and Swapnil Patil’s counterpart behind the stumps on Saturday, MS Dhoni, praised the fielding display the team have put up in the World Cup and the reserve strength in the Indian dressing room.
“Overall I’ve got plenty to play with”, said the 33-year-old.
Waiting in the wings are batsmen Ambati Rayadu, all-rounder Binny, young left-arm spinner Axar Patel and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.