Once at a crossroads, Patil is not done with cricket yet

At a crossroads on whether to continue playing cricket or not, a chance job offer in Dubai gave Swapnil Patil the opportunity to also continue playing.

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Despite playing professional cricket at the age-group level for Mumbai, Swapnil Patil was unsure if he would stand a chance in the first team. He had to come to a decision on whether to continue with the sport he loved or to find an alternate career.

"I was confused," he said. "I knew it won't be easy to make my way to the senior team. I was in two minds and also looking for opportunities. It was at that time I came across an opening in Dubai to play cricket as well as do a job.

"The entire episode was coincidental because the job that I'm doing was not meant for me. I accompanied my first cousin [Nitin Patil] for an interview and I also had my CV, not for the same job, though. My boss-to-be [Shiva Pagarani] had his own team and recruited me.

"I was just out of the under 19 squad and played a few games in the U22, but there was no guarantee I [would] get a regular place. And when this job offer came to play for a company in Dubai, I was very glad to accept, because I have heard of cricket being played in the UAE."

Thus began Patil's new career in the UAE in the summer of 2005. He made his debut for the UAE national team on the four-year resident rule against Bermuda in the ICC Intercontinental Shield in July and played in the final against Namibia in Dubai in December. Now he is in the squad to play in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two, starting today in Dubai.

"I have no regrets leaving Mumbai," Patil said. "I have achieved something in cricket and it is a great honour to play for a national team. I am also enjoying my cricket in the UAE because the game is played almost all the year."

And it was all by chance.

"I was in Mumbai to recruit civil engineers and came across Swapnil's CV," said Pagarani, the vice chairman of the Yogi Group, a company that has been operating in the UAE for 48 years. Their cricket team is celebrating 10 years this season. "I spoke to Swapnil of a job and later to his father, Prakash. They agreed, and then we immediately started preparing his travel documents and he was on his way.

"He struggled on the cement wickets in the early part of his career in Dubai but six months later became a star of our team and now in the UAE national team."

Pagarani, who captains the team, also plays the "elder brother" role to Patil, and said: "He is one of the best boys I have had, both as an employee and cricketer. He is a dynamic person, willing to listen and learn his work beside cricket."

Patil hit a career-best first-class 94 and shared a record 272-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Saqib Ali (160 not out) in the second innings against Namibia in the ICC Intercontinental Shield final.

He also accounted for four catches and a stumping in Namibia's first innings.

The UAE lost by six wickets but Patil's heroics did not go unnoticed; he was retained for the World Cricket League Division Two tournament at Dubai Sports City. If the UAE reach the final, it would be a special celebration time for Patil, who turns 26 on that day.

Patil started as an off-spinner at school before changing duties behind the stumps. His role model has always been Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian great, who also plays for Mumbai, and Adam Gilchrist, the former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman.

"Sachin is my all-time hero and role model," said Patil. "I had the opportunity to see him and talk to him in Mumbai. I can say he is not only a role model for me but millions of young cricketers around the world."