Jeetan Patel acknowledges that it's his batting, rather than bowling, that might see him dropped from the New Zealand team for their three-test series against England.
The Wellington offspinner has played in New Zealand's last six tests, dating back to last August's tour of India, taking 12 wickets in the process.
By and large his bowling in those six matches was tidy, even quite useful on occasions, but it was the batting woes he encountered during last month's tour of South Africa that caught most people's attention.
Nerve seemed to fail the 32-year-old, who'd previously been regarded as one of the more capable tailenders around.
Patel took 5-80 for Wellington against Otago yesterday, his first five-wicket bag for the Firebirds since November 2011, but conceded afterwards he'd heard nothing from the New Zealand camp to indicate he remained their first-choice spinner.
However, an hour after speaking to The Dominion Post, Patel received welcome encouragement when he was belatedly called into the New Zealand XI squad to meet the tourists in Queenstown, after Northern Districts leg spinner Ish Sodhi was ruled out by injury.
Regardless of that, Patel said his batting struggles in South Africa remained an impediment to his retention in the test side.
"It probably is. I was down a lot on confidence and I know I've got to contribute with the bat and that we've got to score runs as a bottom-four to give ourselves a target to bowl at," he said.
"It [batting] let me down and that's something I need to fix. It means I've got to be bowling better, so that I don't put as much pressure on myself when I bat."
It's not uncommon for the odd batsman, especially one who's not a specialist, to get a bit jumpy after being hit. But Patel said it was not a blow that caused him to start doubting himself.
"No, no, nothing like that. I was just down on confidence. I hadn't scored any runs and wasn't really sure where the next one was coming from.
"I've been doing a lot of work recently. I probably steered away from doing that work and concentrated on my bowling. But what happened made me realise there was obviously a lot of work I needed to do."
It also dented his pride. "Yeah, yeah, it really cut me up and in some ways not playing when I got back was actually really nice because I didn't have to think about that."
Patel returned to the game last week following the sudden death of his mother, bowling a lot of overs in Wellington's loss to ND. He felt he bowled fairly well without reward and was pleased to have something to show for his efforts yesterday.
Even more heartening has been the way the Black Caps have responded to the test floggings they copped in South Africa. Harsh lessons were learned on that tour, Patel said, but they were standing the team in good stead now.
"They've come on in leaps and bounds in terms of their confidence and the team seems very tight knit. That's what the public expects of the Black Caps, a team that fights and fights constantly, and we probably didn't show that as much in South Africa. To see it now is brilliant."
Patel's Wellington team trails Otago by 90 runs, with nine second innings wickets in hand. Otago were bowled out for 378, in reply to Wellington's 255, and had reduced the hosts to 33-1 by stumps.
Central Districts lead ND by 130, with one first innings wicket in hand at Nelson, while Canterbury are on track for a massive win over Auckland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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