The turn if the century witnessed the Indian team management struggling to find a designated wicketkeeper-batsman. The selectors tried multiple options in SS Dighe, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra, Nayan Mongia, Saba Karim, and MSK Prasad, before their wait ended on a 17-year-old who was coming off fresh from leading India's U-19 team. Making his debut in England in August of 2002, Parthiv Patel had made an immediate impact in the lineup. It was a sigh of relief for the management, but the not for too long.
Parthiv's performance, both with the bat and with the gloves, faltered. And the search for that perfect option began once again amid rising criticism about Parthiv, who still a youngster.
India then shifted to Dinesh Karthik, a young cricketer from Tamil Nadu, but that too didn't last long although the selectors had little to stress about. 14 months after Parthiv's last Test appearance and few days after Karthik's, back then, India had found MS Dhoni.
He too wasn't that perfect an option but was a hard worker and picked up all the tactics, learned from his mistakes and India finally had a wicketkeeper to cherish for a lifetime.
Such was Dhoni's dominance or grasp over his spot that none failed to breach it until his Test retirement in 2014. While Karthik had earlier opined that he lost his spot to a "special cricketer", Parthiv is not willing to blame Dhoni's presence for his shortened career.
"Many people said me that I was born in a wrong era and that it was Dhoni's era but I have told it before also that I made my India debut before MS Dhoni. It will be wrong if I seek sympathy by saying that my career was shortened because of MS Dhoni's presence. I think my performance was not up to the mark and that is why others got chance. Dinesh Karthik got it first and then MS Dhoni. If I was doing well then nobody could have replaced me. I have never seek that sympathy of not playing for long because I was born in Dhoni's era," Patel told former India opener Aakash Chopra.
Such was the level of criticism following Parthiv's downfall that the youngster feared facing a soft tennis ball, he recalled. And facing the axe in 2004 left him shattered.
"I was scared when I got dropped. I used to think I will not be able to catch even a tennis ball because many former cricketers and journalists were writing a lot of things about me and I read all of them. That brought a sense of fear in me and I was scared. Then I started playing cricket with Under-16 guys just to get back my confidence, I used to bat and keep with them just to see if I can play cricket again or not. I started from zero after getting dropped in 2004. When I started enjoying I made a promise to myself that I will enjoy my cricket at whatever level I play at, whether it's district or club matches," Parthiv Patel recalled.
Parthiv last appeared for India in 2018 tour of South Africa after first-choice option Wriddhiman Saha was sidelined with an injury. But the run did not last long, once again.