Ever since making an impact in the IPL and then finding himself in the India picture, even ahead of Ravindra Jadeja at one point, the Axar Patel story has taken a bit of wrong turn. The batting, that was never quite convincing to begin with, has struggled, while the bowling, which got him noticed in the first place, has been well below par.
The best part of Axar's bowling in limited-overs cricket was that he was difficult to get away, but following a fall in confidence, the batsmen have been able to notch runs fairly easily against the left-arm spinner. From an economy rate of 6.13 in IPL 2014, when Kings XI Punjab reached the final, Axar gave away runs at a rate of 8.40 in the following season.
This year did not begin swimmingly well for the player and his team, as Kings XI Punjab lost five of their first six matches, leading to a captaincy change, with David Miller stepping down for Murali Vijay. If it is the change of guard or just the understanding that there really is no more room for error, KXIP put on a brilliant bowling performance against the Gujarat Lions, tying them up in knots to fashion a 23-run victory.
Axar was the star of that bowling show, finishing with figures of 4-0-21-4, which included a delayed hat-trick (you know the kind where a bowler takes a couple of wickets in a row off the fifth and sixth balls, and then has to wait for a while to bowl the next one, which then ends up being a wicket as well).
"This has been my best bowling performance," Axar said in an interview to IPL's official website. "I was just trying to do what I did in IPL 7 (IPL 2014). I was focusing on bowling in the right areas as that is something that had worked for me earlier.
"I had never taken a hat-trick in my career before, so it feels really special that I got the milestone at this level. The fact that we won the game and my efforts have resulted in a win makes it even more special."
Axar hopes this win will now give KXIP the momentum they have been craving all season. "This was an important win for us," he added. "We needed a breakthrough. All of us felt that we needed just one win to get going.
"Now, our morale is up and there is confidence within the team. The bowlers are executing their plans and the batting group too is looking confident."