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Virat Kohli’s pleasant headache, India team rising on strength of reserves

India cashed in fully on their bench strength to thrash England 4-0 in the recently-concluded Test series. With more than one player jockeying for every spot, they have the pleasant headache like Australia and South Africa in the past

cricket Updated: Dec 25, 2016 20:22 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Jayant Yadav’s maturity as a spinning all-rounder during the England series has given India greater depth in future series.
Jayant Yadav’s maturity as a spinning all-rounder during the England series has given India greater depth in future series.(BCCI)

Before the England series, the buzz in the cricketing circles was how difficult an assignment it would be for Test skipper Virat Kohli, given that India’s last series defeat at home had come at the hands of Alastair Cook’s team.

However, India didn’t just beat England, they humiliated them 4-0 in the five-match series. The fact that India went on to win two consecutive Tests where the visitors had touched the 400-mark shows the hunger India had and the shambolic capitulation of the visitors.

The biggest gain India has had from the five games is the emergence of an enviable bunch of reserve players. With Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Wriddhiman Saha either missing the entire series or a part of it because of injuries, the next batch stepped up to be counted.

From debutants Karun Nair and Jayant Yadav to Parthiv Patel, who received a national call-up after eight years, no one seemed ready to forgo the opportunity.

Karun Nair’s triple century has given an additional depth in the batting line-up for Virat Kohli’s India. (BCCI)

Depth like Aussies, Proteas

The problem of plenty is good to have. Australia and South Africa have cashed in and dealt with such phases in the past few years and now it’s time for the No 1 Test team to have the ‘good headache’. Adding to the choices for selectors, the U-19 team has just been crowned champions of Asia. It wouldn’t be surprising if a few Rishabh Pants come knocking even before Delhi’s young batsman-‘keeper earns a national cap.

Of the biggest gainers, Karun Nair didn’t have a great start to his international career, but with a triple century under his belt in his third Test, he might create another record if he becomes the first triple-centurion to miss a following series. After all, he got a break due to injuries suffered by KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane.

It won’t be easy for chief selector MSK Prasad and Co to choose a squad for the one-off Test against Bangladesh and then the Australia series as there are plenty of options in all departments. While Parthiv and Wriddhiman vie for a spot behind the stumps, even KL Rahul, who has established himself as the second opener, can keep wicket in an emergency.

Rohit, Rahane pressure

Rohit Sharma is recovering from thigh surgery but his position already looks shaky and it won’t be long before Rahane, who averages 47.33 in Tests, feels the heat unless he hits the right gear soon.

In bowling, there are four pacers — Bhuvneshwar, Ishant, Umesh and Shami — and three of them clock 140kph plus. They have donned the role of support bowlers in home conditions well. Given the lethal spin pair of Ashwin and Jadeja, the seamers have often got spells in bursts to either provide a breakthrough or take the shine of the new ball. Jayant Yadav and Amit Mishra are solid fall back options in case Ashwin or Jadeja suffers an injury.

The only drawback for India, however, is that they still doesn’t have a seam-bowling all-rounder. And that will be a problem when the team tours as Ashwin and Jadeja may not be as lethal as they have been in home conditions. That is the reason why players like Hardik Pandya are being prepared as an alternative.