Former India seamer Munaf Patel, who played a key role in the side’s World Cup triumph in 2011, announced his retirement from competitive cricket on Saturday. He was the third-highest wicket-taker for India in the tournament, with 11 wickets in eight matches at an economy rate of 5.36. His last game for India was an ODI against England in Cardiff in September 2011. In all, Munaf played 13 Tests, 70 ODIs, and three T20Is from 2006 to 2011.
The 35-year-old’s last first-class game came in November 2016, when he played for Baroda against Tamil Nadu. He last played competitive cricket in IPL 2017, where he was part of the Gujarat Lions squad.
Hailing from Ikhar, a small village in Gujarat, and popularly known as Munna, he largely remained a salt-of-the-earth cricketer in an Indian team full of superstars. He had made an instant impression on Test debut in 2006, when he claimed match figures of 7 for 97 against England in Mohali. He held the record for best figures by an Indian fast bowler on Test debut until Mohammad Shami broke it in 2013. During his active years in international cricket, from 2006 to 2011, only Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh had picked up more wickets in ODIs for India. Munaf finished with 86 wickets in 70 ODIs at an average of 30.26 and economy rate of 4.95
Munaf’s strength during his early days was the raw pace he could derive from even barren pitches. But injuries denied him a consistent run, and contributed to a drop in pace. Despite that, Munaf found a way to succeed, particularly in first-class cricket where he picked up 231 wickets at an average of 24.43.
He was identified as a special talent, which is evident in his making his first-class and List A debuts for India A, before he played Ranji Trophy. Over the course of his domestic career, he played for Maharashtra, Mumbai, and Baroda. In the IPL, he played for Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, apart from Lions.
A recluse of sorts, Munaf did not speak to the media much, and preferred to retreat to Ikhar even when he was an active cricketer. When he did speak, he was transparent: a quality that persists.
“There is no special reason. Age ho chuka hai [“I have aged”], fitness is not the same,” Munaf told the Indian Express. “Youngsters are there waiting for chances and it doesn’t look nice if I keep hanging on. The main thing is there is no motivation left.”
Barring MS Dhoni, most of Munaf’s contemporaries from the 2011 World Cup batch have retired. Zaheer had announced his international retirement in 2015, Ashish Nehra called it a day last year, while Praveen Kumar, whose injury ahead of the 2011 World Cup allowed Munaf to play in the tournament, retired last month.
Munaf said that although he has no regrets, it was difficult for him to comprehend life outside of cricket, which has been his sole motivation.
“There is no regret; after all the cricketers I played with have retired,” he said. “Only Dhoni is left! Baki sab done ho chuke hain. So, there is no sadness as such. Sabka time khatam ho chuka hain, gam hota jab saare khel rahe hote aur mein retire kar raha hota [“Everyone else has retired. I would have only been sad if they were still playing as I was about to retire”].
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