India had a pretty great left-hander in their line-up called Rishabh Pant. He is still their highest Test run-getter over the past three years, even though he has not played any cricket since December 2022 when he got injured from a car crash. The variety he offered this batting has been missed ever since.
With Pant unavailable, only two left-handers have been part of Test matches that India have played: Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel. A third is on his way though, preparing to make his debut, as an opener.
Yashasvi Jaiswal averages 80 in first-class cricket. He has hit nine centuries in 15 matches. And while it may be an entirely different format, his performances in the IPL showed he has the ability to handle all kinds of bowling, from extreme pace to mystery spin.India’s Test captain Rohit Sharma, in no uncertain terms, welcomed the new addition to the batting line-up. “Indian cricket desperately needed a left-hander and we found a very good player. Looks very promising.”Jaiswal’s arrival has even had a healthy knock-on effect with one of India’s other important players. “Shubman Gill will play at No. 3 because he wants to play at three,” Rohit said. “He told [coach] Rahul [Dravid] bhai that he has played all of his cricket at No. 3 and No. 4 and that he can do better for the team at No. 3. It helps us too as it creates a left-right opening combination. This is what we are trying and hopefully, this becomes a long-term thing as we have been desperate for a left-hander. We have got that left-hander in Jaiswal and let’s hope that he performs well for the team and he can really make that spot his own.”When the Indian Test squad for the two-match tour of the West Indies was chosen, there were a lot of questions about Sarfaraz Khan’s exclusion. The Mumbai batter has been setting the Ranji Trophy alight over the past two or three years but he is yet to be included in the team. Rohit, unprompted, spoke about the people who have missed out and asked them to keep the faith.
“There are a couple of guys who have missed out. Unfortunately, you can pick only 15-16 players in the squad. But everyone’s time will come. That is what I want to say.”
Rohit defends the make-up of the bowling attack on tour
The other feature of the squad is the lack of experience among the fast bowlers – they have a combined 88 Tests between them and Mohammed Siraj accounts for 52 of them. While Rohit said he had full faith in the group that has been picked, he highlighted how situations like this might become more and more common.
“Indian cricket will always face this challenge because we play a lot of cricket, so obviously we have to manage players, rotate them and give them enough breaks. When they return, we want them fresh. We need to be wary of the tournaments ahead of us; there is a World Cup coming, so we have to keep that in mind too. We do not have the luxury to focus on one particular series, we have to look ahead also. We have to see which player is needed where. That is why we’ve had to rotate players, and then the new players come. It is a good thing also in a way as others are getting a chance.
“We have to create our bench strength, because you cannot play with just one team for years on. You have to create a bench strength and the players that are toiling, you need to bring them in the team so that they get a chance and we can also see how well they handle pressure on the international stage, how they bring out their best.
“I have a lot of confidence in the new bowlers. Jaydev Unadkat is not new, he has been around for 10-12 years [in domestic cricket]. Mukesh Kumar has been very consistent in domestic cricket. He has done well for his state, in the zonal games and for India A. He has been given a chance, and we will see the combination we play.”
‘This team will fight to win championships’
Rohit was faced once again with a question of why they were unable to win the Test championship despite making the finals both times it was played and in a moment of exasperation he hinted that India did not have their best team to play with in 2023. Jasprit Bumrah (back) and Pant (knee) were missing due to serious injuries.
“Firstly I want everyone to be available. All my players who are there I want them to be available 100%. I don’t want any injuries, anything. The second thing is, we’ve not crossed the line in a long time but I feel that as long as we keep ticking the boxes, we keep playing good cricket and we keep doing the right things, it will fall into place. Over the years we’ve done a lot of good things. Just that sometimes you want luck to be on your side as well. Over the last five six years we’ve played consistent cricket. We’ve probably won everywhere. But yeah, winning championships are more important. But I believe that until we get that championship we’ll be fighting hard for it.”