Mumbai:- There was no talk in the New Zealand team of asking William Somerville to bowl wide deliveries when Ajaz Patel was on nine wickets, like Javagal Srinath did for Anil Kumble when he claimed all-10 wickets against Pakistan in 1999.
Ajaz, who became the third bowler ever to take a perfect 10 in an innings against India on the second day of the second Test at Wankhede, joining Kumble and Jim Laker of England in the prestigious list, said it would not have mattered if he had ended up with nine wickets.
“No talk of that sort. It doesn’t matter who gets the wickets. I would have been happy had I got nine and someone else took one. It was really about making sure we did our job,” Ajaz said on Saturday.
He said he was quite nervous when Rachin Ravindra lined up to take Mohammed Siraj’s catch to complete the perfect 10.
“It was a nervous time. We backed Rachin to take it but the ball wobbled and we were all nervous. I told Neil Wagner, during drinks, that I was more nervous now than I was all game. We don’t have these moments as cricketers often. It was special that it came in Mumbai.”
However, in the end it turned out to be a bittersweet day for Patel as he could not celebrate much as his team batted poorly in the first innings losing the initiative to India.
After bowling out India for 325 thanks to Ajaz’s 10-119, New Zealand were bundled out for 62, the lowest-ever total by any team against India and on Indian soil.
Ajaz said it was a special day for him but his team had a fight on its hands.
“Personally, it’s one of the greatest cricketing days of my life and it probably will always be. From the team’s perspective, we put ourselves in a tough position. We have to front up tomorrow and work as hard as possible and see if we can turn the game around or eke out something special,” Ajaz told a virtual press conference at the end of the day on Saturday.
Ajaz said he did not expect to get all 10 but was sure of being on the honours board when he left Mumbai.
“No, not quite. I knew leaving here there was work to do. I wanted to get up on the honours board. I told myself yesterday that my name was going to be on the honours board but for it to happen was special.”
The 30-year-old said his achievement of becoming only the third bowler to take a perfect 10 in a Test innings has not yet sunk in.
“After I came off the field, things happened too quickly. These things don’t sink in until later. It’s brilliant for me, my family and my wife. You spend a lot of time away from home as a cricketer and I’m just grateful to God for this, this occasion. It’s very special for me,” he said.
Asked whether he has seen Anil Kumble’s 10-74 against Pakistan in 1999 as Jim Laker’s 10/53 against Australia in 1956 was years before he was born, Ajaz said he remembers the Indian leg spinner’s effort.
“Yeah, I remember his ten-fer. I have seen highlights of that game plenty of times. Very illustrious group to be a part of. Great to see his message and his kind words. Humbled and fortunate to be in that company. Of the quick turn of events on an eventful day,” Ajaz termed it the beauty of Test cricket and said his team is still in with a chance.
“That’s the beauty of Test cricket. Things can flip and one session can change the game. But we’re still in the game and the second innings is still left. It’s about looking forward to tomorrow and doing the right things again. I have a lot of messages to respond to but I’ll leave it for the quarantine on my way back home.”
He said he relished his battle with Indian opener Mayank Agarwal, who scored 150.
“Mayank played very well. That was a very special innings. He got half the runs in the innings. Getting 150 on that wicket was not easy. My challenge was to keep it tight, I have to make sure I bowl the right balls consistently. He played a special knock. It was cool for me to finally get him.”