Munaf Patel’s career in the Indian cricket team can be best described as a roller-coaster journey. The right-arm pacer burst onto the Indian fast bowling scene in 2006 and created an instant impression with his figures of 7 for 97 on debut against England in Mohali.
However, from that high, injuries plagued Munaf, so much so that his pace dropped dramatically. Fitness issues lingered but Munaf adapted well and focused on bowling immaculate line and lengths. In the 2011 World Cup, he picked up 11 wickets and played a vital support role to Zaheer Khan but after that high, he again faded away. After slogging away in the domestic circuit and with some good shows in the IPL, Munaf announced his retirement at the age of 35 from all forms of competitive cricket.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Munaf said he had no regrets and was practical about his decision. “There is no special reason, age ho chuka hai ( Age has caught up with me), fitness is not the same. 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. I was part of World Cup winning team in 2011; there can’t be a greater high than that,” Munaf said.
In addition to his exploits in international cricket, Munaf featured in some memorable moments for Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and the Gujarat Lions.
In the 2009 edition of the IPL against Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals had to defend four runs off the last over and Shane Warne, the skipper, turned to Munaf to bowl the final over. The right-arm pacer responded by taking the wicket of Dhawal Kulkarni and effecting the run-outs of Lasith Malinga and Chetanya Nanda as Rajasthan Royals won by two runs.
That particular match impressed Warne so much that he devoted a chapter on Munaf in his autobiography ‘No Spin’. “I had a lot of time for Munaf, who had a huge heart and a great sense of humour,” Warne wrote
Munaf revealed in the interview that had he not played cricket, he would have been working in a tile factory and earning just Rs 35 per day for an eight-hour shift. He added that if it was not for cricket, he would have gone to Africa to work in a company as a laborer.
Following his retirement, Munaf is contemplating a career in coaching. With Munaf’s retirement, the number of members from India’s World Cup winning squad who have left the game has increased. Zaheer Khan retired in 2015 while the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar retired in 2013. Only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni remain from that side. Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla have not been considered for selection while Sreesanth has been banned for his role in the spot-fixing scandal.