Cricket: Grange open up new era without key man Patel

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A FAMILIAR face will be missing tomorrow when Barclays Grange play their first competitive home game of 2013 against Dundee High in the Scottish Cup.

After 12 years at the club, a third of them as a successful skipper, ex-Scotland cap Sanjay Patel has hung up his bat.

Newcomers Josh Edwards and Gordon Goudie have arrived, from Stirling County and Stoneywood/Dyce respectively, and take their places tomorrow in a team led by Neil McCallum, but Patel is adamant any involvement will be restricted to spectating. “I’m going to try for a clean break,” said the batsman who, as well as representing Scotland in home international matches counts a half century at Lord’s for an MCC X1 as a career highlight. “If I play even one game, at any level, I might be tempted to try more. There are a lot of youngsters coming through and I think it is a good time to free up a slot. There are work pressures to consider and my wife is expecting our first child so, at the age of 40, it’s probably time to go. Life as a Grange captain, because of the success the club has been accustomed to, can be short; you either win or you get moved on. I count myself fortunate to have won two national leagues as well as having a second and a fourth finish during my stint.”

It was at the outset of national league cricket 12 years ago that Patel moved to the Capital having taken up the game at Clackmannan under the watchful eye of his dad, Mahindra, who arrived from Uganda to study and take up a chemical engineering job at Grangemouth.

While Mahindra became Cricket Scotland president, Sanjay joined West Lothian, where he was capped twice and eventually found his way to Grange. “At Clackmannan I was privileged to bat with ex-Pakistan Test star Shahid Anwar and learned so much from him – as I did from [subsequent Australian cap] George Bailey when he was at Grange.”

Patel is more reticent when it comes to assessing the quality of the game he leaves behind.

“I don’t think Scottish cricket is in great shape,” he said. “The standard of league cricket has gone down in the last two years from when it was national leagues. Regionalisation has been a backward step and, while I agree with a representative tier, it should be above the national league, perhaps played on Sunday’s instead of the cup, which might have had its day.

“The game has become diluted and I think a Grange versus Carlton match, for example, offers a standard higher than a regional fixture. The issue I have with regional cricket is it is not necessarily the best 11 cricketers in that region.”

Scotland have announced their new Pro Series “will feature Scotland’s very best players including all 14 Scottish-based players who are centrally contracted”.

Patel feels every source of experience should be tapped into. “There are guys who are not eligible to play for Scotland, but are still better than guys who are playing,” he said. “To get the standard as high as possible, put a couple of pros in there as well as guys being asked to play at a level above clubs. “You could also include guys who have played for Scotland and retired such as Cedric English and Stuart Davidson. “In other ways the game has progressed a lot. I’d have jumped at the chance to play against (English) counties and I was probably in the last generation of purely amateur cricketers. We played two or three games at under-20 level a season and didn’t really have a coaching set up. We have moved on a lot but not as much as Ireland or the UAE.”

Including a top score of 132 from the old district championship, runs flowed from Sanjay’s bat but his half century at Lord’s remains special. “The highlight was actually playing at Lord’s and the 50 was a bonus. As I got nearer, I was conscious that would cap off a really nice day for MCC Scotland against a select team. The whole day and experience when you walk through Long Room and on to the hallowed turf lives long with you. Not everyone gets a chance to do that.”

Also tomorrow, SMRH entertain Clydesdale while Carlton, RH Corstorphine, Heriot’s, Watsonians and Penicuik are away to, respectively, Prestwick, West, Ferguslie, Drumpellier and Ayr.