Debutants rise to the occasion once again for India (Ld)


India’s decision to hand out debuts to two new players once again paid rich dividends on Tuesday with all-rounder Krunal Pandya returning with a half-century and seamer M. Prasidh Krishna shining with the ball, in the first ODI against England here on Tuesday.

Pandya’s blitzkrieg with the willow that caught the English bowlers by surprise at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium came after India saw stellar performances by some other debutants over the past few months.

Washington Sundar was handed debut in the fourth and final Test against Australia in Brisbane and he responded with four wickets besides scoring 62 and 22.

The 62 Sundar made in the first innings was part of a match-turning partnership with Shardul Thakur, who was playing only in his second Test — the first after 2018 — scoring 67 in the first innings besides snaring seven wickets in the match.

T. Natarajan, who made his international debut across all formats in Australia, also played his maiden Test in Brisbane and picked up three crucial wickets in the first innings.

Earlier on that tour Down Under, India had handed over Test caps to seamer Mohammed Siraj, opener Shubman Gill and pacer Navdeep Saini, all of whom had played limited overs cricket before.

Siraj and Gill played key roles in helping India win the Test series. Siraj bowled the most number of overs by an Indian in that series and returned as their highest wicket-taker with 13 scalps. Gill amassed 259 runs at an average of 51.8 with two half-centuries.

On returning home, India began their Test series against England with a loss. But they brought in debutant Axar Patel in the next Test, and the left arm tweaker spun a web around the visitors to pave the way for a 3-1 series victory, picking up 27 wickets in three Tests to spearhead India’s remarkable turn around.

The experiments continued in the T20I series against England with Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav playing their first-ever international matches, although they were already household names because of their exploits in the Indian Premier League representing Mumbai Indians.

Both Yadav and Kishan scored half-centuries in their maiden international knocks, with Yadav scoring 57 off 31 balls in his second T20I (he didn’t bat in the first match he played) and Kishan slamming 56 off 32 balls while opening the batting in his debut game.

In the first ODI against England on Tuesday, Krunal scored a half-century while pacer Prasidh Krishna was among the wickets, sending back Jason Roy and Ben Stokes to give India the breakthrough.

In early 2000s, India under Sourav Ganguly also blooded many youngsters who eventually became the core of a strong India team that went on to win the 2007 World T20 as well as the 50-over World Cup at home in 2011.

Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan made their ODI debut in the same match, the pre-quarterfinal against Kenya in the ICC Knockout Trophy, now known as the Champions Trophy. Harbhajan, who had made his debut in Tests and ODIs in 1998 also got into the groove towards the turn of the century.

Before that, Rahul Dravid and Ganguly had made their Test debuts on the 1996 tour of England and performed well to establish themselves as India’s batting mainstays.

So many debutants making such an early impression in their careers has rarely happened in Indian cricket before.

A part of the reason is the confidence and preparation provided by the IPL in handling high-pressure situations against world class players. So, when players are handed India caps, they show no nerve and take on the opposition with confidence.

“I think a lot has to do with the IPL. The fact that they share dressing rooms with international players, rub shoulders with the best in business go a long way in removing the complex factor,” India coach Ravi Shastri had said while talking about the confidence with which both Gill and Siraj had approached the second Test against Australia in Melbourne.