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A Cricketer’s Story Episode 12: ‘Munaf Patel’ Goes to Zambia to Work in a Factory

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He was born on 12th July 1983 in Ikhar village of Bharuch district of Gujarat. Due to poverty at home, he also worked as a wage laborer as a child. Some of the young people in the village would work in a factory or shop in Africa to get out of poverty. His uncle also settled in Zambia. So his father thought that he too should go and settle there. They had also started making preparations to send him there without a visa. But due to some documents it did not work. So he stayed here and India got a good fast bowler. That bowler is Munaf Patel.

Ikhar, the village where Munaf grew up, is a cotton farm. His home situation is poor. So he started helping his father when he was 14-15 years old. He used to work in a tiles factory after school. He used to get 35 rupees for 8 hours. Despite this, Munaf kept his interest in cricket. At home, his father was against his playing cricket. They thought there was no future in it. But his mother would convince his father to let him play. Munaf says that there is nothing wrong with his father. Because they had such a career, Vaigere did not know.

Munaf used to play cricket wearing slippers as a child. His feet were often bruised due to this. But he did not stop playing cricket. He was tired of this wage-earner’s life. He wanted to do something different. So he started taking cricket seriously. At that time he discussed with Yusuf Bhai who was living in Europe after coming to the village. They gave him shoes worth Rs 400 and also got him admitted to a cricket club in Baroda. Because of them, he chose cricket over going to Africa. There he used to work hard on cricket. His parents wanted him to contribute to them rather than playing cricket. But they had to explain the profit. He would also ask his father’s friends to explain to him.

While Munaf’s cricket was going on like this, once India’s former wicket-keeper batsman Kiran More spotted his skills. He then recruited 20-year-old Munaf into his academy. At that time, he did not even take a fee from Munaf. Instead, they had given him branded shoes. From there Kiran More also sent him to MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. There, Munaf’s bowling improved under the guidance of Dennis Lillee. Munaf trained there for 5-6 months. An anecdote from that time was that Munaf grew up in a small village in Gujarat, so learning English had nothing to do with it. So when Lily would tell him something, he would look at other people’s faces because he didn’t want to know what they were saying. Seeing him so confused, Leeli would smile and ask someone to translate.

Munaf told another story in an interview. He was bowling to a foreign player. At that time, Munaf had consistently bowled bouncers. Those balls hit the shoulders, gloves and helmets of the batsmen. So the batsman got angry and said something to him. But as he did not understand English, Munaf did not understand what he said. But he saw that the batsman was irritated. So he immediately stepped aside and went straight into the swimming pool. Because Munaf thought that he would complain to Sir. Which will get him expelled from the academy.

Munaf also impressed Steve Waugh with Lilly at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. So everyone thought that he would be a good fast bowler in India. Even before he played first-class matches, his name started to grow.

Many cricketers start their first class career from the state team. However, this did not happen in the case of profit. He influenced luminaries like Lilly, Waugh to form the MRF Pace Foundation. Due to his performance, he was directly selected in the India A team. Hence, he made his first-class and first-class cricket debut for the India A team in 2003. Later he was asked by master blaster Sachin Tendulkar to play domestic cricket for Mumbai. So Munaf initially started playing for the Mumbai team.

In 2006, he also got a place in India’s senior team. He made his international debut in a Test match against England in Mohali. Playing in the very first match, he took the first wicket of Kevin Pietersen. He took the second wicket of Andrew Flintoff. He took 3 wickets for 72 runs in the first innings. England’s innings ends at 300 runs. India then took a lead of 38 runs. He then took 4 wickets for just 25 runs while bowling well with Anil Kumble. In this way, he played his coin well by taking 7 wickets for 97 runs in that match. He also made his ODI debut that year. He was also selected for the 2007 World Cup. But in that World Cup, India had to wrap up in the league round itself. At that time the atmosphere in India was very heated. Sachin, Ganguly, Zahir’s houses were pelted with stones. At that time, Sachin had asked Munaf, ‘Is everything okay at your house?’, Munaf had replied, ‘There are about 8000 people living in my village and they all protect me.’

Munaf’s living conditions were simple. Even after entering international cricket, he did not settle down in the city. He has preserved this simplicity even today.

An anecdote from the beginning of his career is that Sunil Gavaskar criticized Munaf for not wearing neat clothes, not tucking in his shirt properly. At that time, Munaf was a simple cricketer from a village. At that time, after that tick, the then captain Dravid asked him to shirt-in so as not to increase the controversy. But Sehwag, Harbhajan and Yuvraj Vaigere players told him, leave it, we will not do shirt from tomorrow.

A few days after his debut, Munaf’s bowling pace slowed down. So he remained as a reserve fast bowler. After the 2009 tour of New Zealand after playing 12 Tests, Munaf did not get an opportunity in Tests. But by then he had become a regular member of the ODI team. He took 2 wickets in the 43rd over to help India win by 1 run against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2011, needing 4 runs from 48 balls. He then qualified for the 2011 World Cup. In this World Cup, he played an important role in helping India win. He took 11 wickets in that World Cup making him the third highest wicket taker for India in that World Cup after Zahir and Yuvi. His performance impressed everyone. India’s then bowling coach Eric Simmons also said that Munaf was the behind-the-scenes hero of India’s 2011 World Cup winning team.

Although Munaf seemed calm off the field, he was very aggressive on the field. He has also been hit by this many times. He was once fined 75 match fees for misconduct when the umpires overturned a batsman’s decision while playing against Sri Lanka. He also bowled Virender Sehwag while playing in the Irani Trophy. Many have heard that he and Shane Warne also had a falling out during the IPL. He also had an argument with Amit Mishra during the IPL. But as aggressive as he was on the field, he was equally calm and simple off the field.

He told one such story in an interview. He used to avoid going to pubs because he thought he had to drink alcohol. But once Gambhir made him understand that going there doesn’t mean you have to drink alcohol. I don’t drink either, but I go. After that the fear in Munaf’s mind was removed.

After the World Cup, however, Munaf did not get much opportunity to play for India. He played his last Test match in June 2011. He lost his place due to constant injuries. He played his last ODI for India against England on 16 September 2011 in Cardiff. However, Munaf was also part of the 2007 and 2011 World Cup squads in his short career. He was also part of two IPL winning teams. In 2008 he was part of the IPL winning Rajasthan Royals team and in 2013 he was part of the IPL winning Mumbai team.

Despite being dropped from the Indian team, he continued to play domestic cricket. After playing domestic cricket for Mumbai, he also played for the Maharashtra team. Later he played for the Baroda team till the end. Munaf finally retired on November 2018. He said while retiring that now I don’t even play for India. So why block a player’s place in domestic cricket. He also expressed his desire to enter the training field. At present he lives in his village Ikhar. Although Munaf’s career was short, he made significant contributions in the amount of time he played. But before the continuous progress made by the Indian team, Munaf remained somewhere neglected.

The story of a cricketer Readable articles in the series-

– Story of a Cricketer Episode 11: Murali Vijay denied entry into team due to long hair

– Story of a Cricketer Part 10: India’s brilliant fielder Mohammad Kaif

– Story of a Cricketer Part 9: Mysore Express Javagal Srinath

– Story of a Cricketer Episode 8: Mr. IPL Suresh Raina

– Story of a Cricketer Part 7: Marathmola Zaheer Khan of Ahmednagar

– Story of a Cricketer Episode 6: Very Very Special Laxman

– The Story of a Cricketer Part 5: Taking the place of his elder brother, he later became the grandfather of all

– A Cricketer’s Story Part 4: Harbhajan Singh leaves for Canada to become a truck driver

– Story of a cricketer Part 3: Virender Sehwag who predicted a triple century before debut!

– Story of a Cricketer Part 2: Irfan Pathan takes on Australia, Pakistan team

– Story of a Cricketer Part 1: Dravid, whose name was not on the honor board then, earned the honor in the hearts of Indians.

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