Patel has freedom of expression

NZ Herald:

Sandeep Patel can only smile when it is suggested that he may have a weakness on 152.

Most batsmen would kill for that kind of weakness, much like Martin Crowe on 188 or Kevin Pietersen on 158.

Like those two classy stroke makers, Patel, the Saint Kentigern College First XI captain, has twice been dismissed on the same hefty score.

The 18-year-old is a boys’ cricket finalist at the November 26 Young Sportsperson of the Year awards. On Saturday he winds up his Auckland premier schools First XI career with day two of an away game at MAGS, but there is the not inconsiderable matter of the schools nationals (formerly the Gillette Cup) in Christchurch next month. Saint Kentigern are gunning for the title they have not won in quarter of a century.

Patel brings stability and runs to the top of the order, mainly opening, and chimes in with plenty of wickets with his medium-pace seamers.

The pair of 152s came against Takapuna Grammar and Rosmini in term one, though he has a soft spot for the former knock.

“After a hiding from Sacred Heart, we made a few changes. I went up to open from No3. I started to lead from the top a bit more,” says Patel. He did just that, also scoring 44 in the RH Marryatt Cup final, won against Auckland Grammar, and taking five-wicket bags against St Peter’s (5-17) and Rosmini (5-31).

His average of 48 in term one allowed Saint Kentigern to post solid totals.

“The most important thing was getting the team off to a good start and just building the innings, setting the platform for the lower order,” he says, after his most productive school season with the bat.

The transition from one-day cricket in term one to two-day cricket in term four is not always straightforward, given the fresher pitch conditions and inclement weather in October, but Patel explains something of his batting mindset.

“Generally I try to put the pressure on the bowlers early on. In one-dayers, I like to hit the ball and be free. In two-dayers, I try not to go into my shell too much.”

Saint Kentigern First XI coach Ben Williams has watched the maturation of Patel since his Year 11 debut.

“The improvement in team culture has helped Sandeep play better cricket.

“With the sharing of the leadership, it’s allowed him to play with a bit more freedom and not have all that weight of responsibility on his shoulders,” says Williams.

“His future looks very bright. He’s on the road to playing first-class cricket. He’s in the Northern Districts system. He does a good job with all his commitments.”

Patel lives in Manurewa and plays premier club cricket (since the age of 14) for Manukau, where his teammates occasionally include the likes of Jono Hickey and Black Cap Ish Sodhi.

Not that long ago, he hit 200 against Pukekohe, a club record.

The ND connection will be further fostered when he turns out for the association’s under 19 team the week after the schoolboy nationals. In early 2018, he would love to be in the New Zealand team for the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, to be held on these shores.

Unlike last year, where he admits he was “caught off guard”, Patel seems to have his time management sorted. The pressure points are terms one and four, with the latter exam time.

“You’ve got to remember you have Saturdays and Sundays full of cricket, so you’ve got to be smart about it.”

That seems to be working and he has his sights set on a law degree at the University of Auckland. So it is Auckland for study and ND for cricket in 2017.

But, before he thinks too deeply about next year, Patel wants to finish his First XI career with a bang in Christchurch.

By Campbell Burnes

Photo / Greg Bowker