What joy to see young @RishabhPant17 bat. I did not think I would see a reverse sweep to Anderson with the new ball when a century was there for the taking. He will keep us on the edge of our seats and will be great for our game.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 5, 2021
The sheer gut and audacity of Rishabh Pant to reverse sweep James Anderson with the new ball was outrageous. While it put everyone across the globe in a state of shock, it talked a lot more about this current breed of Indian youngsters. The man on the other end when Rishabh Pant played that knock, Washington Sundar too was fearless, aggressive, and confident with his batting in the Fourth Test against England at Ahmedabad. Not only these two but the entire upcoming generation that this Indian team is seen nurturing follow the same suite. Needless to say, it is the exuberance of this youth that has driven Indian cricket forward in these recent times.
The culture in the Indian cricket team, which has been talked about a lot of late, has been the driving force in the emergence of India’s gen-next. In the last two Test series especially, against Australia down under and against England at home, India’s young brigade has been the highlight by a fair margin. The kind of performances they have notched up one after the other has been phenomenal. The trust in their own abilities, the judgment of the situation, the backing up of one’s self, and the maximum intensity on display have been mesmerizing. The aggression, passion, and intent that both, captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri talk about, has rubbed off well onto these youngsters.
Despite the multiple injuries that the team has incurred, everyone who has stepped in has delivered. As many as seven Indians debuted in the last two months, each one leaving his own mark on the game. The likes of Mohammad Siraj with the ball and Shubhman Gill with the bat impressed everyone right from the Second Test down under. The inclusion of Navdeep Saini and T Natarajan to the Test side later, also yield rich dividends. The most pleasing debuts of them all were perhaps, Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur. Not only with the ball but the duo put up a gutsy partnership with the bat in the Brisbane Test that arguably, pivoted the match back in India’s favor. Even there, it was out of sheer belief, confidence, and command over one’s batting that the two stitched a century partnership.
The one other Indian who played a crucial role in India winning matches is Axar Patel. Roped into the side after an injury to Ravindra Jadeja, Axar was expected to play as a second spinner along with lending support with the bat lower down the order. His batting exploits were only needed in the last match of the series but his bowling by then had already done more than enough to prove his worth. The left-arm from Gujrat spun a web around the English batting picking up 27 wickets in only 3 Tests. It included four well-crafted 5-wicket hauls. Axar combined well with the man-of-the-series R Ashwin (32 wickets and 189 runs in 4 Tests).
The performance of these youngsters is a testament to the Indian bench strength developed over the years. Not only has the team management from over the last 5 years managed each and everyone well, but it is also the structure in domestic cricket, increased India A tours, and the opportunities given to the newcomers that have aided the rise. The contribution of Rahul Dravid cannot be neglected either. The legend of the game has worked hard with the India A as well as the India U19 set up and has been the driving force at the NCA of late. The fact that all the stars that have emerged to the international circuit in recent times credit the cricketing great for their improvement talks about his role in Indian cricket.
Even in the shorter formats of the game, the superiority of these young Indian players remains well highlighted. The likes of KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, and others, who have headlined the news plenty in recent times have driven India well on the international circuit. The upcoming two years in international cricket are certain to test the character, skill, and temperament of these players to limits. The World Test Championship Final in England later this year followed by a full-fledged cricketing series, a couple of T20 World Cups, and an ODI World Cup at home in 2023 is what awaits Indian cricket moving forward.
What does it mean for us as fans? The best of entertainment, excitement, and pure cricketing joy awaits the entire Indian cricket fraternity. We have seen the Dhonis, Kohlis, Sharmas, and Yuvrajs of the recent past do wonder for Indian cricket, now its time for the Pants, Sundars, Pandyas, and Rahuls to continue the same. Albeit with a lot more intensity, fearlessness, calculated risks, and ample pleasantly awestriking moments.