Jeetan Patel admits he feels “at home” in Birmingham now.
Warwickshire overseas player Patel feels at home in Birmingham – and at ease on the cricket field, as proved by his impressive work leading the team’s spin-bowling attack this season.
The New Zealander is settled and comfortable at Edgbaston and in county cricket. And that was far from the case back in 2009 when he came to Warwickshire for what turned out to be a very brief and unfulfilling first spell with the county.
He made a remarkable start by hitting his maiden – and still only – first-class century on his debut against Yorkshire at Edgbaston. But it was wicket-taking for which he was hired and in that department he struggled badly. His debut brought match figures of 47-2-190-1 and he took just six championship wickets at 66.50 before heading home with an injury.
And that was it for Patel and Warwickshire. Another overseas flop. Or so it seemed.
Far from it. The unhappy initial foray into English county cricket had emphasised his need to get back to the drawing board on his bowling. By the time he returned last year he was a different cricketer, one good enough to convince the Bears to sign him for the enture 2012 season.
“It was Andy Moles who sold the Bears to me,” Patel said. “He is a Warwickshire stalwart and told me all about Warwickshire and county cricket and after I arrived the first time I was dumbfounded.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard a lot around the world about county cricket so I was in awe of all these guys who have played for the club. So I was very nervous and insular.
“I was also still developing as a cricketer. I was still quite young in terms of my expertise and was trying to find my feet in county cricket. Then I did my knee so I had to go home early so it didn’t really work out at all.
“But now I feel like I am at home here. I have learned Birmingham a lot better and I have learned the guys and the club a lot better. Coming back last year was a Godsend because it was the same club, same group of people as the first time but I was a little bit older and knew more.
“I came over for the T20 but my visa lasted beyond the T20 and they said ‘do you want to play on?’ and I said ‘of course.’ It was an opportunity to stay among the boys and, if things went well, maybe make a case to come back this year.”
Patel emphatically did that and has played a huge role in Warwickshire’s challenge for the Championship this season. And that success is down to a lot of hard work at that drawing board – and some wise counsel from distinguished sources.
“It took about 18 months to get my action right again,” he said. “I had a lean patch back home so had to do some technical work and by the time I came back to Warwickshire last year it was totally different.
“I worked a lot with Ashley Mallett and I have a mentor back home called Jason Wells who I have always worked with and he has seen me grow from a kid to where I am now.
“Ashley was very good. I had a few trips to Australia and we also did some satellite training where I would do some stuff and send it over to him. We made some changes which took a while because at 30 it’s hard to change, but it feels great now. I know where I am going right and wrong.
“I also had a session with Saqlain Mushtaq, not so much on the technical side but the mental side and marrying the two up. That put me in a good head-space.
“Spin-bowlers can get better as they get older or they can rewind but when I got my action together again I felt like I was 19 again. I felt I was spinning the ball like a new toy and was really excited about it.
“It’s gone pretty well for me so far this season so I just want to keep it going, this year and beyond. I’d like to think my best bowling is still ahead of me.”