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If Royal Challengers Bangalore is into IPL 2021 playoffs, a lot of credit goes to Harshal Patel for bowling his heart out, and being the strike bowler the franchise has always missed. Currently, Harshal is the purple cap holder, with 32 wickets after the completion of the Eliminator. he will now end up as the joint highest wicket-taker in a single season with Dwyane Bravo and the most by an Indian.

Cricwizz takes a look at the emergence of Harshal from a nobody to a champion bowler in IPL 2021.

Full name: Harshal Vikram Patel

Date of birth: November 23, 1990

Teams: Gujarat, Haryana, RCB, Delhi Capitals

Bowling style: All-rounder

Stats:

 First-ClassList AT20IPL
Matches645711063
Runs1363570838187
Wickets2268012878

He could have moved to the US

Harshal could have moved to New Jersey in the US along with his parents in the late 2010s. But as Harshal had made an impact in U-17 cricket then, he asked his father to give him two years to pursue cricket in India. And that decision was life-changing for Harshal.

However, it was not easy

Harshal Patel IPL
Harshal Patel - IPL Facebook page

After playing domestic cricket for two years for Gujarat, Harshal felt he was not moving ahead in his career. But luck smiled as he got an offer to play with Haryana. The then Haryana Cricket Association head Anirudh Chaudhury, who was the manager of the U-19 2010 World Cup squad that also featured Harshal, offered the all-rounder a contract to join Haryana as most of their seamers were not available due to injuries.

The immediate impact

In his debut Ranji Trophy season for Haryana, Harshal took consecutive 8 wicket hauls in the quarterfinal against Karnataka and Rajasthan, and he got instant recognition. He finished that Ranji season with 28 wickets.

An IPL contract followed

RCB bought Harshal for the 2012 IPL, and he played 12 matches for them, taking 9 wickets. But Harshal was always considered a backup seamer, and not a first choice-pacer. He didn’t get a single game in the 2013 IPL and played just 3 matches in the 2014 IPL. The 2016 IPL was a game-changer for Harshal, as he bagged 17 wickets in 15 matches for RCB. 

But he was still not considered the first-choice seamer, and continue to remain on the sidelines. He played just 5 matches in 2016 and 1 match in 2017 IPL for RCB before he was bagged by Delhi for the 2018 IPL. 

But the same story continued...

In three seasons for Delhi from 2018 to 2020, Harshal could get just 12 games, bagging 12 wickets before he was traded back to RCB for Daniel Sams ahead of 2021 IPL.

And then the story changed

Harshal Patel IPL
Harshal Patel with Virat Kohli - Photo courtesy: IPL FB page

With RCB looking for a death-over specialist to overcome their weakness of leaking runs in the end overs, Harshal was given the job of doing this difficult work. But it gave more purpose and clarity to Harshal and he prepared accordingly. “It helped me prepare certain plans against batters and kept my preparations concise," he was quoted as saying.

It paid immediate dividends

With clarity on his role, Harshal took a five-wicket haul against Mumbai Indians in the 2021 IPL opener to help RCB win a thriller. He also scored the winning runs. And that spell gave him instant recognition, making him the new poster boy of RCB camp.

But with bouquets came the brickbats

Although Harshal was going great guns, climbing the bowling charts in IPL 2021, he also bagged the infamous record of jointly conceding the most runs in an IPL over. He conceded 37 runs against CSK – all through the willow of Ravindra Jadeja.

And then the hat-trick

Harshal remain focused on his task and came back fresh in the UAE leg of the season. He took a hat-trick against Mumbai Indians to become the third RCB player to do so. 

Do you think Harshal Patel could be a force to reckon on the national side? Which of his wickets and moments did you enjoy the most?

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Cover Credits: IPLT20