India may have performed poorly in England in the recently concluded Test series, but there are a few positives to draw. One major aspect of this wave of positivity is the promise youngsters Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant have shown.
The talented duo are not short of the charisma required to excel in red ball cricket. With a lot of exciting series coming up, we could be in line to witness a beginning.
India lost the 5-match Test series against England by a 1-4 margin and was outwitted for the most part of the series with both bat and ball. In terms of pivotal situations, the hosts came out all guns blazing. For India, there were moments of intent and other times it was a familiar sight of unnerving problems.
The fifth Test match at the Oval gave us a hope regarding India’s Test cricket future. Both Hanuma and Pant took their chances and the manner in which they came up against the English bowlers, was notable.
The situations both found themselves in was a period of uncertainty. But in each of the innings first Hanuma then Pant applied themselves and played to their strengths.
To achieve this mini hardworking gifts in England is no mean task. At the end of the day, the management will be optimistic about the direction these youngsters have carved out for themselves. This is just the start and there is a lot of road to travel, but fearless is the new term that defines these players.
Vihari showed tremendous character
Vihari was only called to the 18-man squad after the third Test match. After warming the bench at Southampton in the 4th Test, he was selected in the starting line-up at the Oval. And the youngster grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Vihari, who replaced all-rounder Hardik Pandya, battled for the visitors and scored a valiant 56. The presence alongside Virat Kohli and then Ravindra Jadeja – two senior members of the squad must have done him a world of good.
What was striking was that the middle order batsman looked comfortable during his stay at the crease.
Vihari played freely without taking any risks but finally fell to Moeen Ali. The innings highlighted his eagerness to perform well and build on the excellent run he had in the domestic campaign last season. The two fifty+ partnerships with Kohli and Jaddu was a terrific start for Vihari.
Moreover, he can bowl as well and he sign;t shy away from taking wickets.
Pant finally comes aloud roaring
Prior to the 5th Test, Pant, who was selected in the initial 18-man squad, got opportunities in both Nottingham and Southampton. Two things happened very quickly.
- People were questioning his batting and the approach at the crucial number 6-7 position.
- His wicket-keeping needs work.
Rightly so these things were brought forward. In Pant’s defence, it is just the start of his Test career. One cannot expect a 20-year-old to come and have a crack right from the word go. The same is with the Delhi youngster. We all know the attributes he brings and the qualities he possesses. He is no ordinary player.
Five innings later, Pant showed exactly what he can bring to the table. A cracking 114 in a 4th innings of a Test was a dream effort. India may have lost the Test, but Pant’s contribution is significant largely. It is not just the hype or the innings itself. One has to remember that players here are fighting for their berths and the wicket-keeping situation of this team is in a worrisome situation.
Pant became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century in England and his counter-attack highlighted the way he often sets out with the bat. Fans can be excited about a 20-year-old having the promise to become the next big keeper in Indian history. He needs time and trust.
West Indies series a crucial one
India will be playing two Tests against the West Indies starting October 4. Both Pant and Hanuma are likely to be selected on the back of their heroics at the Oval. And it doesn’t end just there. The duo could be in line to feature in the team and the series is highly crucial for them.
Vihari knows the home conditions well and was the fifth highest run-getter in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy. He averaged 94.00 and hit two tons with a best of 302*. His presence in the middle order will be handy at a time when other seniors have been largely inconsistent.
Pant, on the other hand, will be working on his keeping and looks set to retain his place. These two matches will be another step for him to count upon and play as per his strengths. He needs to enjoy his stay at the crease and part of it was seen in England.
What the West Indies series will do is assure them places in the squad for the tour of Australia in 2018-19. India has lost in both South Africa and England and they will be eager to turn the tides Down Under. That’s where the challenge will lie once again for both Hanuma and Pant and a strong build-up will help them lay a foundation.
Scenarios different for the duo
Hanuma has a more stern challenge in his way. The depth of Indian cricketers battling for a few middle order spots is pretty remarkable.
Vihari has the task of not only holding on to an opportunity coming his way but also unsettling the others and making them perform to the best of their abilities. A benefit for him will be his handy spin bowling and he can use that to develop his game further.
For Pant, he is now set to be back as the side’s first choice keeper. That’s where his chance will lie to keep himself in contention for the major series on the way. Wriddhiman Saha is recovering from injury and needs time to come back. Till then, Pant has the time to seal a bright Test future.