Mumbai Test: Ajaz inspired by watching Kumble take all 10 wickets

A boy from the Mumbai suburb of Jogeshwari, who had moved to New Zealand as a child, came back to the City of Dreams and wrote his name in the history books. On Saturday, Kiwi left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel became just the third bowler to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

After his incredible feat at Wankhede Stadium, Ajaz recalled how he had got inspired by watching highlights of Anil Kumble 10-wicket haul in the second innings against Pakistan in Delhi in 1999, four years after Ajaz had shifted from India to New Zealand.

“Yeah, I remember his ten-fer. I have seen highlights of that game plenty of times. It’s a very illustrious group to be a part of. Great to see his (Kumble’s) message (on social media) and his kind words. Humbled and fortunate to be in that company,” Ajaz said later in the day.

Inside the stadium, his brilliant performance was cheered by not only Indian players but also the spectators, who gave him a standing ovation. India opener Mayank Agarwal rushed to greet him at the end of the day’s play.

Ajaz didn’t get much time to reflect on his achievement as the Indian bowlers ensured he had to come and bowl again after New Zealand were bundled out for 62.

Ajaz explained how quickly things changed. “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.”

“Personally, it’s one of the greatest cricketing days of my life and it probably will always be. From the team’s perspective, we have 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.”

Asked about his emotions, especially when Mohammed Siraj tried to clear mid-on only for the ball to land in Rachin Ravindra’s hands, and Ajaz admitted that his heart was beating furiously. “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,” he recalled.

Ajaz has been inundated with congratulatory messages, but he will reply to them only while undergoing a quarantine period at the end of the tour.

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