Shaw, Iyer, Saini and company: Young guns reassure Indian cricket is in safe hands
My father tells me that he often used to wonder how would India fare once Sunil Gavaskar hung his boots, because, at most times, he exuded half the team's batting strength. Once Gavaskar was gone, India seldom won.
Just two years after the original Little Master's retirement, another talent from Mumbai emerged and enthralled a generation of the 90s kids, with it spilling over to the first decade of the new millennium. I remember, at his prime, I used to wonder, "How will India manage once Tendulkar retires? He's been doing this for almost two decades! He can't keep doing it forever."
My father had then assured me, "Don't you worry. The world moves on. When Gavaskar went, Sachin came. When Sachin leaves, someone else will fill his boots. It may take time, but it is inevitable."
Through the last few years of Tendulkar's international career, when he was nowhere close to his best, came forth another once-in-a-generation batting talent who grew into his work and became the heartbeat of the nation in no time. Virat Kohli attracted as much fanfare for his batting genius as for his take-no-shit attitude. He gave back as good as he got it, or even better. India found a new hero.
As I grew older, I saw the country placing all its expectations on one player, again. If Kohli fired, India won. If he didn't, you know what happened.
But, in the last couple of years, a new crop of cricketers has gradually begun the allay my fears about the future of Indian cricket. For all the flak the IPL has received for being pajama cricket and spoiling the original ethos of the game, it has not only complimented the Ranji Trophy and age-group cricket in honing skill with exposure, but has churned out players all by itself as well.
This has led to an assembly line of young and exciting talent consistently coming up the ranks. Just look at the Indian white-ball squad taking on New Zealand in the Kiwi den. When the Indian teams of the past toured New Zealand, we hardly expected them to win. A fight is all we hoped for, and often, that also proved too much to ask for.
The ODIs may not have gone their way, but just look at the dominance with which the team whitewashed the Black Caps in the T20Is. And it wasn't always the Kohlis and the Rohits who stood up. Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and Shreyas Iyer won us games. How pleasing!
In the 1st ODI, with both Rohit and Dhawan injured, India offered ODI caps to two new openers. Not for a moment, did the duo seem out of place. In fact, the pair brought up the 50-run partnership in just the eighth over. Following a couple of quick wickets, the way Shreyas Iyer first steadied the innings with skipper Virat Kohli with a century stand and than paired up KL Rahul to take the team to an above par score, had all the signs of a seasoned player. Someone seeing him for the first time would hardly be able to make out that the batsman was just playing his 16th ODI.
As an Indian fan, I have always been envious of the never-ending supply of quality pace bowlers in Pakistan. No matter how much you talked up the Venkatesh Prasads and the Javagal Srinaths, it was hard to compare them with Wasim Akrams, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtars, let alone harbouring the dream of outdoing the neighbours in that department. Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, and later RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar did come in, but they either could not play enough matches together and form a formidable pace uint, or failed to sustain their impact over a longer time.
But now, my heart leaps to see Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami bowl in tandem. To back them up, the team has someone like Navdeep Saini who clocks 140 kph for fun and possesses an accurate yorker and a mean bouncer.
In red-ball cricket, India have the added might of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. Mohammad Siraj, Ishan Porel, Avesh Khan and Sandeep Warrier have been among the wickets of late regularly for India A.
Something that has impressed me the most in the last couple of years is India's consistency despite all the chopping the changing. New players have come into the side and taken to their role seamlessly. Even when the top guns like Rohit Sharma or Jasprit Bumrah have been injured or rested, the team has not looked short on quality.
Unlike teams like West Indies and Sri Lanka, who have been found out after the departure of their top players, India has been able to avoid an extended dip, courtesy of their continuously replenishing resources.
When a decade down the line, my kid tells me that after the departure of XYZ star that India are doomed, through the earned wisdom of years gone by, I will respond, "Don't you worry my child, the world moves on."
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