It was the deciding Test, against a weighty Australia at Dharamsala. Indian captain Virat Kohli’s injury was a matter of serious concern, despite his slump in form during the entire series. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav was named as Kohli’s replacement; a decision that raised eyebrows because the 22- year-old had no international experience.
However, what unfolded at the foothills of the Himalayas, amidst the peaks of the gorgeous Dhauladhar range, was a show of great promise from the young Uttar Pradesh cricketer, who bamboozled the best of the opposition with his cunning variations. From David Warner to Glenn Maxwell, nobody could pick Kuldeep’s wrong-runs. An unfledged debutant sealed the deal for India in Kohli’s absence, against the overweening Australian batsmen. India’s bench strength had a quality bowler who could rise to the occasion when needed.
Five months late, surplus of options for the opening slot has given Kohli ‘a headache’, but one that any captain would cherish. “It’s a massive headache but I guess a good one. You know, eventually guys understand that only two can take the field and at most two or three openers make the squad.” Kohli had said after winning the Galle Test.
In the absence of regular opener KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan cut short his Hong Kong holiday and flew to Galle, only to score his career-best knock of 190. Not many had given the limited-overs specialist a chance to do that. Abhinav Mukund, on the other hand, atoned for Murali Vijay’s wrist injury, recording his highest Test score - 81 off 116 balls with eight fours.
And then there was Hardik Pandya, who rose to prominence in his maiden foray in white flannels, scoring a scintillating half-century. All that while, the star of the Dharamsala Test was still running to and fro the grounds to serve drinks.
Plus, the wait list also boasts of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who, though a limited-overs specialist, can spring up a surprise on his day. Remember his five-fer from Eden Gardens against New Zealand?
In the wake of Ravindra Jadeja’s one-match suspension, India have called up Axar Patel as the No.1 Test bowler and all-rounder’s replacement. Axar is one of the many India A cricketers who performed well in the just-concluded tri-series against South Africa and Afghanistan, taking seven wickets from four games.
Not to forget, there is Jayant Yadav too, who was one of the premier off- spinners during India’s long home season. But due to his father’s untimely death, the bowler didn’t play the South Africa series, and perhaps that is why he has not been summoned for the Sri Lanka series as well.
The highest run-scorer in the tri-series in South Africa was also an Indian – Manish Pandey with 307 runs from 5 matches, while Shardul Thakur was the second highest wicket-taker with nine scalps. And though these records came in a one-day format, any injury in the upcoming five ODIs against Sri Lanka will not leave India bereft of quality back-up options.
With so many additional resources in the Indian Cricket Team, Ricky Ponting’s record of winning nine consecutive Test series is under serious threat.