HYDERABAD: Youth has been the flavour of India’s batting in the ongoing Test series. Prihtvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant are the flag-bearers of this new generation. One a right-hander and the other left, they share things in common. Both like putting the attack to the sword. Scoring at a fast clip comes naturally to them. On Saturday, at RGICS, Shaw and Pant were at the top of their game. Chiefly due to their efforts other than Ajinkya Rahane’s, India were sitting pretty after Day Two of the second Test, just three behind the West Indies’ total.
The visiting bowlers did a lot better than the first Test and could have helped their team finish in a better position had the two youngsters not got their act together. Shaw zoomed off from the word go. His first two scoring shots fetched him 10 runs (a four followed by a six). He became the first Indian after Virender Sehwag to hit a six in the first over of a Test innings since 2000. After KL Rahul got out cheaply once again, the 18-year-old continued cutting his way through a resilient attack. Thanks to the diminutive player’s aggression, India reached 50 in 7.2 overs.
Shaw (70 off 53, 11 fours, 1 six) was eventually done in while going for an expansive hit through the covers. Leftarm orthodox Jomel Warrican was tossing it up. Having driven him for four the previous ball, the batsman paid for an attempt to repeat the shot. His innings was almost flawless, except for the fact he did not vary the pace of it.
This is where Pant triumphed. Though he too dealt mostly in boundaries (10 fours, 2 sixes), his innings was a cocktail of aggression and patience. His approach reminded one of what Shaw might have been missing. The wicketkeeper’s unbeaten 85 off 120 deliveries and his unbroken partnership of 146 for the fifth wicket with Rahane dug the team out of trouble. From 98/2, India had slipped to 162/4, with Virat Kohli among those dismissed. Aggression is Shaw’s forte. In first-class, List A and T20 matches, his strike rates are 77.48, 115.37 and 153.2, respectively.
With the Australia tour coming up, does the team management think he should mellow down a bit, considering the conditions and quality of attack there would be different from what he has faced this series? Batting coach Sanjay Bangar said a player like Shaw makes it easier for the middle-order. “We encourage our batsmen to play in their individual fashion because not all can bat in a similar manner. We encourage the individual style and approach of every batsman. That builds the character of the team. It also means the opposition can’t come at you in a set pattern.
If they know our players bat in different ways and somebody can score that quickly, it takes pressure off the middle-order,” Bangar opined. At the same time, by taking risks, Shaw gives opportunities to the opposition. Asked whether a batsman like him puts the attack under pressure or offers some hope to the bowlers, West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase said, “When he is going like that, the score is ticking over, so that puts the pressure on us. But he is always giving us a chance. So it’s a bit of both, I would say.”