Poor Parthiv Patel. He will forever be the little boy who refused to become a man. No matter what he does with the bat or with his gloves, no matter how thick that stubble threatens to become, he will be the perennial kid. And to think he's almost 31 now. And made his international debut almost 14 years back. Cue for joke: But isn't he only 14?
Parthiv jokes can be bad, almost inane but that's what makes them a cult. Almost like Sir Jadeja jokes, only better, it's just that we see so little of him in the team these days, and who watches the Ranji Trophy. So it's really down to the IPL every year that he makes an appearance - often at the top of the order (because they argue, where else do we fit him in?) and he wields a bat much bigger than himself.
So it was quite a surprise when little Parthiv was announced as cover for MS Dhoni. How will he fit into the shoes of the big boss? Hell, how does he even fit into his own shoes? Do they make professional cricket shoes for feet that little?
What about Dhoni? Will he play? Is it just caution? The Indian team management's lips are sealed regarding Dhoni's fitness as they often are with all things Dhoni. A muscle spasm? What exactly happened? Was football the culprit again - high time cricket got stuck into football and showed it for the evil it really was, always injuring our cricketers. Rumour has it that Mohammad Shami saw a football and pulled out of the Asia Cup. He has been seeing a lot of footballs off late.
Coming back to Parthiv Patel, if indeed he does play instead of Dhoni, the only certainty is where he'll field: behind the stumps. Where will he bat? He usually opens for his IPL franchise (and there have been so many, Chennai Super Kings, Deccan Chargers, Gujarat, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad) but there's no way he will dethrone that compelling Rohit-Dhawan combo meal with extra large fries and cola.
Nor can he unsettle Kohli at three. Looks unlikely he will be trusted as a finisher ahead of Yuvraj, Raina or even Pandya and Jadeja. Will he even bat? Will he even play? Will they make Rahane keep? Just so that they can shoehorn him into the playing XI. Is Parthiv really cover for Rahane?
If anything, those repetitive and by now annoying questions (to Dhoni especially) about Dhoni's retirement, will be put on hold for a bit. MSD's value as an all-rounder for the team, more so in the shortest format, as captain, keeper, floating batsman, stump-collector, could smack us in the face over the next few days. See, you infidel, see.
This is not to belittle Parthiv Patel, but why has he been picked ahead of Wriddhiman Saha and Naman Ojha? Both are equally adept behind the stumps, and more importantly, both often bat in the middle order for their IPL franchises, and with flair at that.
But then who knows, maybe this is to signal a coming of age for Parthiv Patel. Somewhat ironically, in the shortest format.