The 2019 fixture list brought a unexpected and pleasant surprise for Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel with a visit to Clifton Park, York, one of the his former home grounds.
Patel was York CC’s overseas player in 2003 when, aged 23, he helped them to third place in the Yorkshire Premier League.
"It’s just nice to know that Warwickshire will be going there, and hopefully we can tip them up on my former home ground."
He is relishing the prospect of returning to Yorkshire’s capital city when the White Rose entertain Warwickshire from June 17 next summer. Yorkshire have only once previously played a first-class game in York, at the now defunct Wigginton Road ground in the first official year of championship cricket in 1890.
“As soon as I saw it on the fixture list, I was excited at the thought of going back,” said Patel. “It’s a long time ago now, but I’ve still got some good memories from living up there and playing for York CC. I love York – I think it’s a great city, a great part of the country, with the Minster and the walls and the cobbled streets.
“I also worked the ground there and helped to look after the rugby fields as well as roll the wicket and prepare for the Saturdays. It was just one of those opportunities that comes along – someone was looking for a player, I was available, and, at 23, I thought, ‘Why not?’
“I was a young guy, and it was nice to go and explore. I hadn’t really spent much time out of home, and I just thought it was a good chance to get away and go and see what the world had to offer.
“There was a great bunch of lads that looked after me, and I still keep in contact with the guys I played with. It’s just nice to know that Warwickshire will be going there, and hopefully we can tip them up on my former home ground.”
Patel also has other happy memories of Yorkshire, having scored his maiden first-class century against them at Edgbaston on his Bears debut in 2009. Batting at number ten, he scored a career-best 120 in what remains a record ninth-wicket partnership for Warwickshire – and a record ninth-wicket stand against Yorkshire – of 233 with Jonathan Trott.
“I was there to bowl off-spin and ended up scoring a hundred in my first game,” laughed Patel. “So, look, a little bit of a fluke, I suppose, but you take the milestones when you can get them.”
Another ton against Yorkshire followed in 2017 when Patel scored 100 from number eight at Headingley, also returning figures of 6-50 in a performance that did not deserve to see him finish on the losing side. He also claimed a high-class T20 hat-trick against Yorkshire at Headingley in 2014, removing fellow countryman Kane Williamson as well as Andrew Gale and Adam Lyth.
The Bears captain has had his share of success against the White Rose then – 48 wickets at 26.72 apiece against them in all cricket a. But he knows they will come at the Bears as hard as ever on their one-off championship visit to York.
“Yorkshire play a really tough brand of cricket,” Patel said. “They’re very bolshy about the way they come out and bat, and they look to score and hit the ball hard, and with the ball they bowl attacking areas and ask tough questions. You know that you’re in a fight. It’s never an easy game against them. That’s probably why I enjoy playing them so much because it is such a challenge.
“Although it’s nice to have contributed against them over the years, we don’t always come out on top against Yorkshire, that’s for sure.”
Patel, who played 24 Tests, 43 one-day internationals and 11 T20 internationals, will have been on Warwickshire’s staff for 10 years next summer. In some ways, he is the Bears’ answer to what Darren Lehmann did for Yorkshire, an overseas player who has shown great loyalty to his county as well as great skill.
His love for Warwickshire remains palpable.
“I’m never going to compare myself to a great like Darren Lehmann,” said Patel, quickly dismissing the comparison with the Yorkshire legend, “but what Warwickshire and I have created, I suppose, is a very good marriage. I suit them, and they suit me. They look after me, and I try and look after them as much as possible.
“It’s not just me they look after, they look after my family as well, and when we come to England and drive up from Heathrow to Edgbaston, we get excited every year to come back.
“We also get a little tear in our eye to have to come home, but going home is important to us, too, because we love being in New Zealand.”
Depending on family commitments, Patel would like to extend his contract beyond next summer.
For now, he is simply relishing another season with his beloved Bears and a chance to turn back the clock at York’s Clifton Park.