Cricket-India's show of bench strength eases transition concerns

  • Cricket
  • Monday, 19 Feb 2024

Cricket - Third Test - India v England - Niranjan Shah Stadium, Rajkot, India - February 18, 2024 India's Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates after reaching his double century REUTERS/Amit Dave

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India may not be contemplating life after Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli just yet but the robust display of their fringe players against England will have eased any fears about how they will cope when the old guard steps aside.

Kohli, 35, is not playing in the five-test series due to personal reasons, leaving Rohit, a year older, to juggle the captaincy with the burden of leading India's batting.

With Shreyas Iyer, 29, struggling to meet the demands of test cricket and 31-year-old KL Rahul battling fitness issues, India have been left wondering how to plug the gaping hole in the middle order.

Behind the stumps, India have also been searching for someone to replace the neat glovework and uninhibited hitting of Rishabh Pant, who remains out of action since a horrific car accident in 2022.

But three matches into the series against England and most of these concerns appears to have been addressed.

Seven months after Yashasvi Jaiswal burst onto the scene by hitting 171 in his debut test in West Indies, the opener struck back-to-back double hundreds against England.

The 22-year-old smashed a record-equalling 12 sixes in his unbeaten 214 in the third test in Rajkot which prompted comparisons with former India opener Virender Sehwag, who was famed for his take-no-prisoners batting.

"India has a new @virendersehwag...," former England captain Michael Vaughan posted on X, formerly Twitter, calling Jaiswal "a player who will destroy many attacks in all formats exactly like Viru used to do".

In seven tests, Jaiswal has passed the 100-mark three times and converted two of them into double hundreds.

India will also take heart from the performance of two players who made their test debut in Rajkot.

Middle-order batter Sarfaraz Khan has been knocking on the door for a while, and his twin half-centuries left many wondering why it took so long to blood the 26-year-old.

Wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel also impressed in replacing Srikar Bharat, who played the first two tests against England.

Jurel occasionally struggled to read left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav in the first innings but his glovework was significantly better in the second.

That improvement was highlighted by the run out of Ben Duckett, Jurel rushing in to collect Mohammed Siraj's full-blooded throw on the bounce and breaking the stumps while going to the ground.

Jurel has honed his six-hitting skills in the Indian Premier League and he smashed three of them in his first-innings 46.

Rohit said the new faces had fit right in.

"A lot of credit to these young boys who have come in and shown a lot of character," he said after India went 2-1 up in the series.

"Looks like they belong here, and they want to stay here as well.

"We always talk about the bench strength. Today and even in Visakhapatnam, we got to see a lot of bench strength."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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