For Mumbai Indians, he was a ‘nets' bowler. However, when he wore the Kings XI Punjab colours, Parwinder Awana assumed the role of match-winner. The transformation was well-earned by the ambitious fast bowler from Noida on the outskirts of Delhi.
“I dreamt of playing cricket and I am happy I am living my dream,” the soft-spoken Awana said with his disarming smile after an impressive show in his first Indian Premier League (IPL) stint.
At 21, Harshal Patel too is nurturing aspirations to represent India. He made waves in his debut first-class season. He also made an impression in his debut IPL.
Incidentally, both were favourites to make it to the India ‘A' team for the impending tour of the West Indies. But both were ignored. It did not deflate their hopes. The fire in the belly raged far more furiously and reflected in their bowling.
The 25-year-old Awana figures in the top 10 wicket-takers with 17 scalps in 12 matches. Patel has nine from 12. According to Mumbai Indians coach and former allrounder Robin Singh, what matters is not just the wickets.
“The attitude and the ability to absorb punishment also counts,” says Robin.
Among the fast bowlers in the IPL, Morne Morkel (Delhi Daredevils), Lasith Malinga (Mumbai Indians) and Dale Steyn were outstanding, along with Umesh Yadav (Delhi Daredevils), but Patel and Awana caught the eye by consistently improving.
Patel, who had hauls of eight for 40 against Karnataka and eight for 34 against Rajasthan in successive Ranji matches for Haryana last season, was offered a place in the team by HCA secretary Anirudh Chaudhry.
And India Test veteran Zaheer Khan guided him in the IPL. “Zaheer bhai was a huge help. Almost every ball in the nets and matches he was mentoring me. He taught me how to read a batsman, how to read the situation, the need to have plan ‘B',” said Patel.
Former Test seamer Madan Lal was all praise for Patel. “He has a good run-up, good action and great attitude. I am sure he will grab the chance if he gets a break. I was impressed by Awana too,” noted Madan.
Awana had a fine season with Delhi, bowling close to 40 overs in each of the six matches he played. “I knew about him,” said Robin. “He came to us but we couldn't fit him in. It is always better to play on the field than bowl in the nets.”
Robin insisted that Awana “bowled exceptionally in the IPL. Obviously he was helped by the conditions, but he looked a match-winner. He and Harshal were the standouts among all young bowlers. I like the way Harshal comes back after being hit. Even Steyn and Morkel get hit but it is about how you come back”
For Patel, who was a member of the India under-19 team at the 2012 World Cup in New Zealand when playing for Gujarat, the time spent with Zaheer was “high quality cricket education in the best practical manner.” Zaheer has always loved sharing his experience with newcomers. “He would constantly tell me to pitch back of length, on and around the off-stump. It is the same in the longer version too. I enjoyed bowling with him,” said Patel.
On areas that need improvement, Patel was emphatic. “I know I need to improve. I want to bowl more in-swingers and develop my slower ball. I like pressure and I love being aggressive. It may not show on my face but I have been an aggressive bowler all along. I always look to bowl what I want to, what I can.”
Being honest helped Awana. He confided in Kings XI captain Adam Gilchrist that he had missed the zonal T20 due to illness. “Gilchrist was so encouraging. He had done the homework on me. He helped me improve my mental toughness. Ranji Trophy improved my basics. IPL taught me to think and innovate,” said Awana.
If Madan and Robin are to be believed, we will hear more of Awana and Patel.