Tall and wiry, Munaf Patel was thought to be the quickest bowler in India when he came to prominence in 2003. From a remote area in Bahruch, Gujarat, he burst onto the domestic scene, bowling with fearsome raw pace. Kiran More, the then Chairman of Selectors, saw Patel bowl in the nets and was highly impressed. More sent Munaf to train under Dennis Lillee at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, and the move worked to perfection. In 2006, a breakthrough performance against the visiting Englishmen prompted a call-up to the national side. He made his debut against England in Mohali, and took 7 wickets for 97 runs, heralding the arrival of a new star on the Indian pace bowling front. Two years later, the Rajasthan Royals management, realising they needed to add some pace to their attack in their first IPL season, recruited the big man – and soon reaped the rewards, with Munaf playing a significant role in their victorious 2008 IPL season.
Munaf, whose nicknames are Muke and Munna, had the ability to get natural reverse swing when the ball gets old – a trait that helped him bowl at the death. Munaf’s stock ball was the leg cutter which moved away, squaring up the batsmen. Munaf modelled his action on Glenn McGrath and some observers even compared his metronomic accuracy to the Aussie legend. Patel’s greatest strength was that he stuck to his basics and didn’t try to experiment. Due to his skill in attacking the stumps, Munaf got a lot of bowled and LBW dismissals.
Patel was very much a man to rely on for Rajasthan skipper Shane Warne in that inaugural IPL campaign, a good example being the match against arch rivals Mumbai Indians. Mumbai were 142 for seven and needed just four runs from Patel’s final over to overhaul Rajasthan’s 145 for seven. His first delivery was a dot ball, then he trapped Kulkarni for one with his second. Nanda was run out for a duck on the third by a throw from Yusuf Pathan to make it 142 for nine. Singh came in and scored a single, leaving Mumbai needing three runs off the last two balls. Lasith Malinga played on the off side and set off for a single, but Rajasthan captain Shane Warne scooped it up and threw to Patel to calmly run out Malinga at the non-striker’s end to end the drama. Such a cool head for such a fiery fast bowler! Munaf was also valued for his loyalty and willingness to stick to a plan. Under orders to pitch it short to the tail enders in the semi final against Delhi, Munaf did exactly that, even though the game was being won easily. He actually broke Glenn McGrath’s finger. His childhood idol was furious, but skipper Warne couldn’t stop laughing – his talisman quickie had followed his instructions to the letter!