CHENNAI: On Saturday, soon after the trophy presentation, Virat Kohli handed it over to Washington Sundar. Joining the all-rounder, whose unbeaten 96 helped India win the fourth Test in Ahmedabad, were Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Mohammed Siraj. Standing beside them was Virat Kohli. It is quite a telling frame.
Beginning since the Boxing Day Test, all of them and Shubman Gill have become an integral part of the side and it is hard for India to move ahead without them.
Workload management, difficulties in living in a bio-bubble, where it is hard to bring in replacements, all had a role to play, but equally laudable is team management's faith to give opportunities to youngsters even when the likes of KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Mayank Agarwal were part of the squad.
Instead of looking for solutions from outside the team, India believed the likes of Gill, Washington, Siraj who had integrated into the set up will not only provide them with balance but also help them play a fearless brand of cricket. And the youngsters have not only responded by grabbing the opportunity but have left their impression in two series wins.
For all the difficulties of living in a bio-bubble environment, it has provided ample time for the youngsters to pick the brain of senior players and support staff.
Though they have played crucial roles in victories, the team management and the senior players have allowed them the space to grow. For example, India now believe warming the benches and being hard on Pant has not only helped him grow, but also helped them find an X-factor, who can change the course of the match. The manner in which the wicketkeeper has gone about his batting in Sydney, Brisbane, Chennai and Ahmedabad has been well received in the team.
In a chat with bcci.tv, as Pant mentions that he has started to think a lot more about the team, Rohit Sharma intervenes to add:
“We don't want you to think so much. We will think, there are others to think and do the planning. You just have to think little bit and play your game and that is what we want from you.”
It hasn't been rosy all the time. India have been tough and hard where they need to be. Especially with regard to Pant, who landed in Australia expecting to play the limited-overs, was told he wouldn't get to take the field unless he works on his fitness.
The result was that Pant had spent more hours in the training session than anyone else, taking one-on-one keeping drills with fielding coach R Sridhar. Running and strict diet pattern had resulted in him getting match fit in space of a month.
“We were hard on him because nothing comes easy. He was told under no uncertain terms that he should respect the game a little more. Got to lose a bit of weight, he has to work hard on his wicketkeeping. We know the talent he has and he is a genuine match-winner and he has responded. He has worked like hell, over the last three-four months and the results are showing,” head coach Ravi Shastri said.
If India were hard on Pant, they have been more accommodating with regard to allowing space for Washington, Siraj and Gill to grow. Having been part of the set up for over a year now, the trio knows what works and what doesn't.
Had it not been for circumstances, Washington might not even have made his Test debut. But in the four Tests he has played, he has shown he can be an asset to the side.
It isn't as if India threw him in the deep end to see how he responds, but from the time he walked into the dressing room, Washington's body language has found him few fans. Although it was his ability to bowl in the powerplays that put him in the limelight, India knew the batsman in him can play long innings.
Not far away is Gill. His three fifties have shown, he is there for the long haul, a player India expect to play a huge role going forward. Though he couldn't replicate the performance of Australia at home, that India never even thought of looking at Rahul or Agarwal showed, he would be given space to grow. In bowling, Siraj and Axar have highlighted the depth India have.
In the absence of experienced bowlers, the duo has ensured the team didn't miss their services one bit.
“When you see youngsters coming through the ranks and performing in such situations which are really tough is satisfying. Not one individual calling the shots. We've given opportunities to youngsters and they have grabbed those and delivered. They have been in a corner but they have fought from there. This side refuses to give up. We were irrepressible in Australia and we are the same here too,” Shastri said.