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If members of the Atlanta Georgia Cricket Conference (AGCC) were asked to pick the one league player they would not want to bowl or bat against, the most would likely reply would be, “Japen Patel.” Japen is not only the most dangerous all-rounder in AGCC, but is also the biggest match-winner in the league. Two consecutive five wicket hauls, followed by two consecutive unbeaten match-winning hundreds (141* & 173*) not only testify to Japen’s unbelievable form at the moment, but also to the distance between him and his closest competitor.
Japen sits atop of the batting and bowling ranks this year and seems set to win his third consecutive AGCC Player of the Year award. So far, in six matches he has accumulated 505 runs with average of 168.3 and has taken 17 wickets.
Moreover, his dynamic fielding, positive attitude and unsurpassed passion for cricket has gotten him the respect on and off the field, and there’s no doubt this talent is something to watch for.
Talent, however, can only take a player so far; it’s dedication and hard work that will bring him continued success. Japen understands that, and knows that the success he is enjoying now is the result of his efforts during a three-month stay in India earlier this year.
In January of 2011, Japen made a crucial decision about his cricketing career and decided to join the Rajasthan Royals Development Camp under the guidance of Coach Mrugang (Monty) Desai. Cricket in the United States has yet to professionalize and so Japen decided to attend the camp to get a taste of how young Indian players train to become first-class cricketers.
In the camp, Japen was specially monitored by trainers Afzal Khan and Pratik Kadam and tested with fitness drills that focused on leg work, such as shuttles, lunges, sprints and long jogs.
Japen was pushed to bowl for hours, working on specific skills such as bowling slow balls, bouncers, yorkers and wide yorkers with correct field sets. These are especially helpful as they are tactics; that can be in match scenarios. To test his mettle, Japen bowled against the likes of Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Raut and Stuart Binny.
Batting practice concentrated on drills designed to make Japen capable of standing in against quality spinners. In these sessions, his batting was tested by some imaginative fields set by a few present and future Rajasthan Royals spinners who bowled well to him, such as Dinesh Salunke and Ankit Chavan.
He also got the priceless experience of mingling with first-class players and learning firsthand how they prepare for a match. Under the watchful eye of Coach Desai, Japen improved both his bowling action and batting technique.
“I am sure these camps have not only made him more confident technically and tactically but also mentally as he feels he belongs to the next level,” Desai said. “I really hope USA looks at investing in talented players like him which I am sure will be many all over the states.”
“He (Japen) is a very good listener and fantastic student of this game which is one of the important attributes for a sportsman,” Desai said. “I wish him all the success for his future.”
Before the camp, Japen was a raw talent that needed direction and guidance to fulfill the tremendous potential he possessed. He was more streaky than consistent, but even then stood out as one of the top players in the AGCC.
Japen joined the Atlanta Rising Stars Cricket Club in 2009 and has played a key role in their achievements since. He is also a member of the US Tigers Cricket Club that competes nationally in Twenty20 tournaments across the country. As a member of the South East Regional Team for the last 4 years, Japen has made important contributions in national tournaments. Selected to the U-19 South East Regional Team of 2006-2007, he captured both the Best Batsman and the Most Valuable Player awards of the tournament.
Those following Japen’s accomplishments during the last four to five years would conclude that he has matured as a cricket player and is ready to move on to better competition. He seems ready to play with the best cricketers in the USA and has the track record to merit consideration for selection to the US national team.
Ask his opposition in the AGCC and they will tell you that it’s about time he stops torturing the club cricketers of Atlanta every Sunday.
[Article and picture - Courtesy of AGCC]