Black Caps cricketer Ajaz Patel is turning out for the Central Districts Stags in the final round of the Plunket Shield competition in Hamilton this morning.
CD high performance manager Lance Hamilton said he had spoken with Patel who intended to sign off the Stags' four-day, red-ball season against the Northern Districts Knights starting at Seddon Park, Hamilton, from 10.30am.
"He's certainly feeling for all those people involved but he also is happy to continue to play the game," said Hamilton of the 30-year-old test cricketer who is a devout Muslim and has been left reeling, like the rest of the country, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Christchurch on Friday.
Forty-nine people have been confirmed dead in the terrorist attack and 39 people remain in hospital, 11 in intensive care, after alleged mosque mass murderer Brenton Tarrant opened fire at two centres of worship in the Garden City.
The Heinrich Malan-coached CD side, who had already successfully defended their first-class crown, were going through an emotionally charged time yesterday.
Patel aside in Auckland, seamer Ryan McCone, of Christchurch, also was caught up at the height of the drama after police had cordoned off areas in the southern city.
"You know he [Patel] was very shaken and, you know, we gave him the choice of playing it or not playing it which is just a game of cricket compared to what's playing out in Christchurch," said Hamilton. "We gave him the choice and he wanted to continue to be with the team and travel down and play so he had spent a lot of time reflecting."
Hamilton said no doubt the hate crime had hit Patel hard but the left-arm orthodox slow bowler was happy to play.
The Greg Hay-captained Stags had rallied to support Patel and McCone's decisions.
"Ryan was in the cordon because his family live in Christchurch and he's back there in the back-end of the season so, yeah, it's certainly hit everyone real hard.
"Will Young was going to make his debut so, at the end of the day, the right decision was made because everybody's welfare was the most important aspect in calling the test off [on Friday]," he said of the third test scheduled against Bangladesh at Hagley Oval.
The Stags see the completion of their domestic season as a healing process and a timely distraction from the senseless violence.
CD sports psychologist Gary Hermansson, of Palmerston North, is in Hamilton to ensure players receive any help they need to cope with the trauma.
"It's also Heinrich's last game with the team so there's a lot of emotions in and around the team."
In his meteoric rise in domestic cricket to the international spotlight, Patel has consistently dedicated his success to hard work but, above all, to God.
"Everything happened from that ball but I'm quite religious in my upbringing so everything goes upstairs. Good fortune, I suppose, comes from God," he said after claiming 6-57 in just his third first-class career match in Napier in 2013.
Having arrived from Mumbai, India, with parents Shanaz and Yunus, Patel has lived in Auckland for the past 23 years and started plying his trade with the Stags since 2013.
"I certainly put in the hard work and in faith because I believe God does the rest," he had proclaimed at the end of last summer after he was named the domestic cricketer of the year at the NZ Cricket Awards in April last year.
Keep your faith, don't let your trust waver, adopt the right attitude and God will open doors, was Patel's mantra when he was selected in July last year to make his debut on the tour of the United Arab Emirates this summer.
He has had his share of setbacks, including missing out on the prematurely ended Bangladesh tour here, but his Islamic faith keeps him in good flight and drift.
"I'm very religious. To a certain extent I believe whatever happens, happens for a reason so whatever is God's will will happen," he had told Hawke's Bay Today.
"For me, as long as I keep putting the work in and keep giving it everything to succeed, whatever happens from there on, I believe, is beyond my control. It's God's will so it never got to a point where I thought I should give up or think maybe that's never going to happen.
"I've always had the belief that with God's will I'll always have that opportunity."
For someone who reverently fasts during the months of Ramadan and offers his prayers in his hotel room when he's away from home and no mosques are nearby, Patel probably would have attended services at one of the centres of worship in Christchurch had he been with the Black Caps in the past few days.
The Canterbury Kings, as the only other contenders to beat CD, on Saturday cancelled their match against the Wellington Firebirds at the Basin Reserve.
"This isn't about cricket. It's about something much bigger and much more important than that. It's about life, it's about respect; it's about family and community," NZ Cricket CEO David White said in endorsing the process and the wishes of the players on its website. "Cricket and sport takes a back-seat to personal welfare."
The Auckland Aces have jetted off to Dunedin to play the Otago Volts, without Martin Guptill and Lockie Ferguson who elected to step down.