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The stars who make India's batting formidable

November 20, 2013 10:50 IST

The stars who make India's batting formidable

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In Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, India, says Haresh Pandya, has a bunch of exciting young batsmen who will go places, individually and collectively.

Not long ago, Team India was feared for its awesome batting line-up, studded with gems like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and, of course, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The scenario has completely changed today. Only Dhoni, who is still going great guns in all the three formats, has survived. While Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar have retired, Sehwag and Gambhir are dropped and are unlikely to return to Test cricket.

But the most heartening thing is that despite a set of totally new faces featuring in India's current batting line-up, it has not lost any of its lustre and power. It is a tribute to the collective genius of Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma that India's batting still appears almost as formidable as it was when those stalwarts were around.

No, one is not prompted to say this on the basis of their individual and collective performances in the just-concluded two-Test series against the West Indies. It would not be proper, simply because this West Indies team is not Test class. But the spark of their brilliance and performances against better teams are a fair indication that here is a bunch of exciting young batsmen who will go places, individually and collectively.


Image: Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma
Photographs: BCCI

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What is more, these true representatives of India's bright young brigade have been playing in the heavyweight division of cricket for the last couple of years only. To be more precise, none of them was seen in Test cricket before 2010. But they have already been very impressive and what they have achieved hint at the greater things to come as Team India enters a new era -- post-Tendulkar.

Maybe, just maybe, the selectors will be inclined to test Vijay for some more time because he has not been as consistent with the bat and sure at the crease as the rest. He is also a bit of an odd man out, as it were, in this exciting batting line-up. Vijay is 29 and the rest of the young batsmen are between 24 and 25 only.

Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli and Sharma have already been inspiring awe in much the same way Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar did in the millennium's first decade in which Team India scaled dizzier peaks of success, first under Ganguly and then under Dhoni.

The dashing Dhawan made his debut only this March with a blazing, record-breaking century (187 off 174 balls with 33 fours and 2 sixes) against Australia at Mohali, while Sharma his in the first Test against the West Indies at Kolkata with a magnificent 177 (301 balls, 23 fours, 1 six) earlier this month.


Image: Murali Vijay
Photographs: BCCI

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Pujara came on the scene with a timely, match-winning 72 (89 balls, 7 fours) in India's crucial second innings against Australia at Bangalore in October 2010. Though Kohli had a lacklustre start to his Test career on India's tour of the Caribbean in 2011, he came on his own on the otherwise disastrous tour Down Under (India lost all the four Tests to Australia) with two outstanding performances -- 44 and 75 at Perth and 116 and 22 (run out) at Adelaide -- and stamped his class.

Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli and Sharma. Their names deserve to be spoken in the same breath. Their figures are too dazzling, too well-known to be mentioned here.

Vijay's may not match theirs, but he, too, has done fairly well in his own right: 1,108 runs at 38.20 in 29 innings of 18 Tests, including three centuries and three half-centuries.

It hardly matters whether Kohli takes Tendulkar's place at No. 4 or Sharma. What is noticeable is the substance and solidity these youngsters lend to India's batting. And the batting just does not end or stop with either Kohli or Sharma at No. 5. At No. 6 will be Suresh Raina (who also made his Test debut with a hundred, 120, against Sri Lanka at Colombo in July 2010) or somebody else before the redoubtable Dhoni comes at No. 7.


Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: BCCI

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Ravichandran Ashwin is principally a spinner but emerging fast as a genuine all-rounder, having already hit two centuries in 18 Tests. He bats at No. 8 in this line-up. And if the selectors prefer Ravindra Jadeja to Pragyan Ojha for the slot of an orthodox left-arm spinner, Team India can boast of having one more accomplished batsman in its rank, and that too at No. 9.

He may not yet have proved his batting ability at the Test level for want of opportunities, but he has played useful innings down the order in some One-Day Internationals. Importantly, he has two triple centuries and one double hundred to his credit in first-class cricket.

Both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami can also bat a bit at No. 10 and No. 11 respectively and, at least, give good company to better batsmen when really required.

How Shami helped Sharma complete his second Test century in a row in Mumbai while hanging around as the explosive batsman went after the West Indies bowlers!

If this is not a strong batting line-up, what is?

Indeed, India's gen-next is quite capable, and actually ready, of carrying forward the rich legacy of Tendulkar and other greats who built this powerful Team India.


Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: BCCI

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