When coach Rahul Dravid’s team ran into a wall

  • Seasoned by annual trips to India, New Zealand debutant Rachin Ravindra aces a gripping trial by spin
New Zealand's Ajaz Patel and Rachin Ravindra being congratulated by their teammates after the end of play on Day-5 of the 1st Test match between India and New Zealand, at Green Park International Stadium, in Kanpur on Monday(ANI) PREMIUM
New Zealand's Ajaz Patel and Rachin Ravindra being congratulated by their teammates after the end of play on Day-5 of the 1st Test match between India and New Zealand, at Green Park International Stadium, in Kanpur on Monday(ANI)
Published on Nov 29, 2021 09:49 PM IST
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Soft hands. Rachin Ravindra is all about them. And supple wrists. The man whose name is a portmanteau of Rahul (Dravid) and Sachin (Tendulkar) needs that to stay on top of the gripping ball. Let’s also not forget those nerves of steel—invisible but most vital ally in stonewalling the best spin attack in the world.

Years down the line, the scoreboard will not highlight this extraordinary spell of resistance so here’s summing it up for the record’s sake. On debut, all of 22, back to the wall on an up and down Green Park pitch with close-in fielders swarming him, one eye on the ticking down overs count and the other on Nitin Menon’s light meter as the Kanpur sun played peekaboo, Ravindra eked out an improbable draw in the company of fellow Kiwi-of-Indian-origin Ajaz Patel, acing a gripping trial by spin.

Now for a deep dive into what Ravindra actually achieved. He walked in with New Zealand at 128/6, having lost captain Kane Williamson. India needed four more wickets. Their spinners were on a roll. And there were still at least 29 more overs to deal with. Not one of the 91 deliveries Ravindra ultimately faced was off Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma. That’s a terrifying prospect as a batter since there is just no let-up in the aggression, no time to walk towards the square-leg umpire and shake off the jitters and definitely no time to assess the field. So for 91 minutes (works out to a minute per ball for his innings, definitely unheard of), all Ravindra did was play every ball on merit.

And survive, while watching his partners leave one by one. Tom Blundell chopped on to his stumps. Kyle Jamieson and Southee were trapped plumb. Defeat was inevitable. Or at least it looked like. Ravindra Jadeja was flying through his overs, landing some of the balls in the rough while letting some just go with the arm. Ravichandran Ashwin was spinning, undercutting and caroming the ball while Axar Patel was teasing with his lengths. Come the mandatory last hour and the pressure just went up several notches. It was Patel and Ravindra bowling to Ravindra and Patel.

And Ravindra batted as if you and I—and not he—were in a trance. This was a jailbreak crafted by pluck and pluck alone. Skill can only take you so far. Beyond that it’s all about single-minded determination against a team that is used to swift victories at home.

 

Barring two sharp edges, his front foot game was on the button almost every ball. If Jadeja tried a fuller length, he went across to its pitch and deftly steered it past slip. Patel’s flat trajectory was met with a sound block from the crease, with his eyes right on top of the ball. Ashwin, the more prominent threat since he often took the ball away from Ravindra, was played more proactively. There were several solid front-foot stalls, few defences on the back-foot and sometimes even a clipping away of the ball to the safety of a single or two. Ravindra’s measured approach left Ashwin impressed as well. “The young boy, Ravindra, batted beautifully, showed great composure,” said Ashwin after the match. “It just tells you a story. Everybody hangs in there.”

Perhaps some of Ravindra’s skills come from his father Ravi Krishnamurthy—a software engineer in Bangalore before he settled in New Zealand, Krishnamurthy was also a decent cricketer. Then there is the pressure (not really) of having to live up to his Rahul+Sachin = Rachin name. “There may be some truth behind it (the origins of his name) but we don’t really talk about it too much these days,” said Ravindra sheepishly at a recent media interaction.

What really mattered though were the annual tours of India Krishnamurthy used to arrange as founder of the Wellington-based Hutt Hawks Cricket Club. Those cricket trips of Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Anantapur helped Ravindra do his India homework. Ravindra's debut was no gamble but a well-planned masterstroke. So add this chapter to the engrossing narrative of true grit the World Cup finalists and current world Test champions have been scripting in every format since 2019. Also keep a tab on the gems discovered along the way—Jamieson last year, Devon Conway and now Ravindra this year.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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