Babasish Nanda

Having a world-class allrounder, a stroke full batter and a calm speedstar is making India’s red-ball cricket reach new heights.

Jamnagar’s warrior clans are known for their courage. Courage allows you to be creative. Creativity is the first step you need to take to be ahead of the curve. Ravindra Jadeja towards the end of the last decade itself had figured out that if he can bat in the top five and become one of the top four bowlers then he will rule all formats of the game. Now, having developed a game where his batting has reached his peak form, the world is his oyster.

Shreyas Iyer must have been about four years old while he was already fashioning gloves, pads and middling a plastic ball in the hall area of his house. The first real setback came during his U16 days when he was short on runs. His father, Santosh Iyer didn’t exactly push his kid to perform, but made him learn a valuable lesson. A lesson about failure, about missing out, about patience and more so, about grabbing the opportunity when it arrives.

Born to a Sikh family in Ahmedabad and raised largely by a school principal, his mother, Jasprit Bumrah grew up bowling the ball at the skirting tiles that were laid at the bottom of the walls of his house. He couldn’t exactly pitch the ball on the floor because that was a noisy proposition. But by aiming at the wall and floor junction, he took the noise out of the equation. This habit eventually took the pitch out of the equation and yorker became his greatest skill.

The pace of the game in Test matches is a lot faster than what it used to be. Most teams now don’t pick an all-rounder just because he or she is good enough to be picked as a batter and a bowler but if that player is a match winner in both those skill sets.

Also getting a big score in the third or fourth innings is not exactly an extra terrestrial thought these days. Babar Azam and Pakistan proved that in the recently concluded Karachi test.

Similarly, the role of pacers has changed drastically. They are no more just new ball bowlers. Anyone and everyone who bowls fast is now expected to be effective throughout the five days which means they must have the ability to generate lateral movement in all passages of play.

John Buchanan coached Australia from 1997 to 2007, in a period where they won three world cups, two Champions Trophies and two Ashes. But these victories won’t define Buchanan’s legacy as an administrator of the game. It is an ideology that he brought to the sport itself that looks to maximise everything. For example, in the pre-free hit era, Buchanan worked with the batters over scoring more of the no ball. He also believed in the philosophy of making individual players do more than what they are capable of.

Ravindra Jadeja is a pure reflection of that school of thought where he has kept on adding layers to his game. When he first came into professional cricket he was a good left-arm spinner, an athletic fielder and someone who had the ability to bat. It is batting that he invested the most time in.

Batting in top flight cricket is always a growing process. Once Jadeja had a series of big scores in domestic cricket, it was established that he knew how to score runs. Thus he added gears to run scoring and improved his power hitting and clean ball striking. In his latest incarnation of batting, what stands out the most is his awareness at the crease. While batting with Rishabh Pant against Sri Lanka, Jadeja showed his defensive game, but after Pant’s departure, he changed gears and became the enforcer in that lower-middle order.

India has found a run-machine in the form of Iyer, who seems to be determined to make the most of the lost opportunities. He is at an age where batsmen mature and bloom to the full blossom. Batting maturity comes when someone knows their game inside out. Playing the inside out shot over the covers still remains Iyer’s favourite power move. He can play that shot because he predominately stays beside the line of the ball. That allows himself enough room to craft the shots through the off side. While playing on the on-side, he uses the angles to great effect. For the same pull shot, Iyer has different variations. He can get inside the line of the ball and pull it to backward square leg, stay on the ball and hit in front of square or give himself some space and pull it wide of mid-on. This variety of strokeplay when coupled with his hunger and determination to score runs, is a factory setting for all Mumbai batters.

Bumrah’s rise to the top is beyond his skills though. His calmness on the field is his greatest virtue. As a fast bowler in a game that is heavily titled in the favour of the batsmen it helps if you are calm. With the pink ball the general perception is that it aids the seamers and it does too. But the spell that we saw from Bumrah in Bangalore was a masterclass in keeping things simple. Cagey lines and aggressive lengths got him all the rewards. Calmness will also help Bumrah because he is now not only a leader of the bowling group, but is also the deputy to Rohit Sharma.

Needless to say, in Jadeja, Iyer and Bumrah, India has found its modern day masters of red-ball cricket.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)