CHENNAI: Even though not many would have had premotions that the India-West Indies Test in Rajkot would one-up that Afghanistan obliteration in June, the general buzzword associated with this clash before it began was “lopsided”. Naturally, comebacks happened. R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav hit their stride with the red ball. Even a successful debut materialised in the form of Prithvi Shaw. After India’s biggest Test win had been ratcheted up, the match had truly lived up to its billing of a one-team show.
That innings-and-272-run outcome may perhaps beget one question: all the aforementioned silver linings notwithstanding, couldn’t this match — considering its skewed nature — perhaps have been used to blood more young talent?
The importance of a Test cap — especially one that culminates in a success, a la Shaw — to was any player, a long-format greenhorn or otherwise, was quite succinctly summed up by Kuldeep after that win. “This is one (format) in which everyone wants to feature in. Red-ball cricket is very close to my (heart), and I want to play red-ball cricket for long. That’s the whole focus.”
In terms of those still to wet their feet in the five-day-format ocean, the Indian squad for this tour has three uncapped players in the form of Mayank Agarwal, Shardul Thakur, and Mohammed Siraj. The names of Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant can be appended after that list as newcomers.
The latter’s maiden foray can also be used to buttress the argument that at least the second Test in Hyderabad should be used as a sandbox for these new faces. If the young stumper was handed his first cap in a Test that was also a series decider (Southampton), then why not send out a couple of long-format freshmen out onto the field in a match that has been widely dubbed as both inconsequential and skewed?
That too, especially when quite a few of them — like Siraj (37 wickets in last eight first-class innings) and Mayank (too many domestic statistics to mention) — have been showcasing their mettle for a while with
Former India wicketkeeper and chief selector Kiran More, though, wants the management to tread the middle path. “Quite a few players have already been rested for the series. And, you want to provide a chance to those who’ve been either in and out of either the Test scheme of things, or those who haven’t hit a good patch off late. With Australia coming up, guys like Umesh (Yadav), (KL) Rahul, and (Ajinkya) Rahane need some game-time.”
“But, they could look at Siraj and Shardul as potential back-up speedsters. Siraj has been doing well, and Shardul too has shown that he can be a handful. Either of the two can be looked upon as a possible option for Hyderabad. The rest can be given chances later on during the limited-overs leg. But, let’s face it. No team wants to lose. And, India doesn’t take their oppositions lightly.”
The line of thought suggested by More may make a few think about how injuries have been a constant companion for many a player of this side over the past few years. Juxtaposed with the three-odd days of 40-plus Celsius heat they endured in Rajkot, and the fact that quite a few of them have been shouldering heavy workloads for a while, an injury could threaten to become a possibility from Friday onwards.
But, More feels otherwise. “Three days of that is par our cricketers and their fitness levels. And, Hyderabad isn’t that boiling a cauldron as Gujarat can be during this period. They’ll come out the next match fine.”