Patel plays the long game

Spinner who dismissed two England selectors is in line for a Test call-up against the country of his birth; Simon O'Hagan applauds the slow progress made by a Kent bowler

The rise of the one-day specialist has been the dominant feature of the cricket year so far. The World Cup, the Benson and Hedges Cup and the Texaco Trophy have focused everyone's attention on the players who can produce instant results with bat or ball or more likely both.

But out there, beyond the quick-fifty merchants and the nagging medium- pacers, other kinds of cricketer do survive. A purer kind, one is tempted to say. Min Patel, the Kent slow left-armer, is one of the best examples - a player who counts for almost nothing in one-day terms; yet his maturing skills over four days have put him in serious contention to make his Test debut against the country of his birth.

When the selectors meet next weekend to decide the party for the First Test, which begins at Edgbaston the following Thursday, Patel's name will surely figure prominently in the discussion about who is best equipped to take on the Indians in the sphere of conflict they understand perhaps better than any other. "He wouldn't disgrace an India team," Patel's coach at Kent, Darryl Foster, said. "I think he'll certainly be an England player soon."

You cannot do much more to get yourself noticed by the selectors at the start of a season than to dismiss two of them, and Patel has managed just that in 1996, bowling Mike Atherton for 98 in Kent's win over Lancashire in their opening County Championship match, and having Graham Gooch stumped in last week's victory by an innings against Essex. But as the highest wicket-taker (among England-qualified bowlers) of the last two years, Patel has evidence for his case that goes deeper than that.

With Graeme Hick's off-spin always an option, there can only be room for one front-line spinner in the England team. The slow left-arm of Richard Illingworth has been preferred of late, but even after a respectable tour of South Africa he cannot be said to have nailed down the job, and in this coldest of springs he has struggled to make much impact for Worcestershire. Phil Tufnell's chequered past remains an obstacle to his return, and Mike Watkinson's three Tests against West Indies last year said more for his reliability than his penetration. The position thus looks very open.

Patel, aged 25, was born in Bombay and came to England when he was five. "My father wanted me and my brothers to have an English education," he said last week, sitting on the players' balcony at the St Lawrence ground, in Canterbury, after a net. The family settled in Dartford, and at school - Dartford Grammar - Patel discovered that "if you could turn the ball you'd always pick up wickets". He played club cricket for Blackheath, made his Kent debut in 1988, but after taking a degree in economics at Manchester Polytechnic and missing a season with a knee injury, he did not really come through until 1994, taking 90 first-class wickets, more than any other bowler, and earning a place on that winter's England A tour of India.

"It was a great tour," he said. "The conditions suited me and the management was really good." Patel gained experience against four of the Indians now in England - Vikram Rathore, Rahul Dravid, Paras Mhambrey and Sourav Ganguly - but the tour left an unwanted legacy when the 1995 domestic season got under way. "I think I bowled too slowly," Patel said. "I'd been able to do that in India where there was more turn."

Patel was consequently more expensive and had to settle for 66 first- class wickets last season - still an impressive figure, and it would have been more had he not missed two potentially profitable matches at Worcester and Taunton after fracturing his cheekbone while batting in a club game. Although there was no place for him on the A tour of Pakistan last winter, two five-wicket hauls already in the Championship so far this season have shown him at his delicately probing best.

Orthodox in most respects, Patel thinks his patience is his strength, and his composure over long spells and capacity to ride out rough treatment augur well for his prospects as a Test bowler. Last week's match between Kent and Essex at Ilford was a case in point, Patel bowling 88 overs and taking 10 for 225. It is unusual for a spinner to get in quite as many overs (approaching 200) as Patel already has this early in the season, but the situation has been forced on him by the absence of Alan Igglesden and Dean Headley. Patel is not complaining.

His temperament is what Foster likes about Patel. "I think he's got that above all other left-arm spinners in the country," he said. "He's always in control of himself and he'll never let you down." No discussion of Kent left-armers is complete without reference to the greatest of them all, Derek Underwood, and he has followed Patel's career closely. "His great asset is his confidence and assurance, which is rare these days," Underwood said.

Slightly built and with long, wiry fingers, Patel has a lovely loop to his bowling, making it one of the most appealing sights in the game. Underwood suggested there was a departure from the textbook in Patel's "amazingly short" delivery stride, but that it was important. "He uses his body to impart spin, and it helps to pause. He's got a nice rhythmical action and a good pivot. He bowls a good line and length and he's shown time and again that he can bowl sides out. You can't ask for more than that."

Spin bowling is a complicated art, but the thrust of Underwood's advice has always been simple: keep putting the ball in the right place and the wickets will come. Patel's time might have too.

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little