A team with a strong lower middle-order always has an edge. In any format of cricket, there’s a need to have compact players who can bowl as well as bat, when the need arises. If we look at the current Indian team, there are three players who can chip in, both with the bat and the ball.
Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and the two-Test-old Jayant Yadav show the grit and determination to come to the team’s rescue with the bat too. In the ongoing third Test at Mohali, Ashwin yet again became Virat Kohli’s man in crisis (with the bat) when he took charge after his captain’s dismissal. Not to be cowed down by pressure, Ashwin along with Jadeja steered the team to a respectable total. Jadeja too has done justice to his potential with the bat by getting a half-century when his team needed the most.
Yadav has been a revelation. Before he made his debut, we had known him as somebody who could turn it on the most benign of tracks. Not only has he given wickets to his team, he has also shown that he is no pushover with the bat too. Yadav has scores of 35, 27 not out and 55 in his first three Test innings for the country, an achievement worth a laud. Coming into bat at number 9, Yadav joined Jadeja and shared a match-saving partnership to take India to a position of strength in the third Test.
Yes, we have a lower middle-order which can take on the opponents. Ashwin, time and again has been an asset down the order. Leave aside his bowling, with the bat, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder has proved to be crucial in Kohli’s scheme of things. Jadeja on the other hand, has two triple hundreds at the First-class level, but, his skills with the willow haven’t quite served his team’s cause in the five-day version. However, of late, he seems to have taken his batting in Test matches seriously. His unbeaten 50 against New Zealand at Kanpur and 90 against England at Mohali are two instances that prove there’s a change in his mindset. Former Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly in his analysis for Cricinfo is of the view that the innings at Mohali would do Jadeja’s confidence good, but he needs to continue playing this way in Test cricket.
The presence of these three in the batting order means, there’s enough strength in our camp. Gone are those days in the past when BS Bedi, B Chandrasekhar, E Prasanna and S Venkatraghavan were ‘taken’ as absentees when India batted. An assessment of the current line-up can bring a smile on Kohli’s face. The opening slots look a bit sloppy, but with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (hoping he would be back soon), Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav following, the Test team has the right balance now. Even Mohammed Shami can be handy with the bat.
Critics might fume at the inclusion of Rahane who is struggling with the bat. But, form is temporary, class is permanent. To write him off at this juncture would be a big blunder. And, we also have Rohit Sharma who is nursing an injury. There’s enough solidity in the Indian batting at this point of time.
Going back to the men on top, there’s no denying that KL Rahul, M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel are in contention for bagging the top two slots. Veteran southpaw, Gautam Gambhir seems to have run out of favour. Rahul is injured, Vijay is inconsistent and Dhawan too was a let-down before injury ruled him out.
Looking at the long calendar ahead, stability right at the start is a necessity. One wonders how serious Rahul’s injury is, but meanwhile it may not be a bad idea to let Patel open with Vijay with Saha behind the stumps. The Gujarat cricketer scored 42 in his comeback innings. Let Saha keep wickets, play Patel as a batsman. Well, he has the experience of opening for India in the past against tough contenders. Patel at the top means, there’s a right-hand-left-hand combination to begin with.
In spite of the silver lining in Indian batting, the real test begins, when India goes overseas. Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand will throw challenges. And how, the Indian batting responds would be interesting to observe. Nevertheless, the early signs are positive, and one hopes the consistent run continues.