For the last few years, I've been doing domestic commentary and I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of domestic cricketers in action. What has struck me the most is the fact that we have a good bench strength when it comes to batting, but quite a paucity of options in the spin-bowling department. I'm going to mention a few batsmen who have done well over the last few years in domestic cricket, and in my humble opinion, have what it takes to make it to the top.
Along with a lot of skill and talent when it comes to batting, Karun Nair has a sense of occasion. The bigger the occasion, the better he plays and that's a quality that can't be coached, practised, acquired from books or by listening to seniors. It's inborn, god given. What's more, he has it in spades. A triple-hundred in the Ranji final. A match-winning performance in the Irani trophy. Hundreds in knockout matches of the Ranji trophy.
He also has a calm about him while batting. He seems to have a clear mind, and hence, makes the right decision more often than not. I remember talking to Fazal Khaleel (Chairman of the Karnataka Selection Committee) after Karun had scored a hundred against Punjab, and for some reason, it wasn't an impressive hundred. It was a flat pitch and he just ground it out, even after he had passed the three-figure mark, yet, I saw it differently from what it actually was.
I saw it as a painful hundred. What it actually was, is a testament to the young man’s mental toughness and discipline, and his hunger to get more runs and not throw his wicket away He has shown that he can adapt to all formats of the game. If he keeps working as hard as he has there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a regular feature in the Indian team.
If Karun bats like a man for all seasons, Shreyas Iyer bats in fifth gear. He seems to have a lot of time to play his shots, a bit like Rohit Sharma. He also oozes a lot of natural talent when he is at the crease. There is arrogance (good arrogance) and confidence in his game.
Having said that, there seems to be an air of vulnerability at the start of his innings. There would have been occasions when he has gotten out playing a rash shot that would have had the team management pulling their hair out, but that is part and parcel of what Iyer brings to the table. He is the sort of batsman who will divide opinions. His fans will be die-hard fans, while his critics will always have something to beat him with.
But what separates Shreyas from a lot of young cricketers though is his self-confidence. He absolutely believes that he will play for India and he has the talent to back that belief. He was one of the main reasons Mumbai won the Ranji trophy last year.
There will be times in his career where he may need to alter the way he approaches an innings, but he has the ability to succeed in all formats of the game. We have seen him do exceedingly well in the Ranji trophy and we have seen him do well in the IPL too, the two biggest tournaments organised by the BCCI.
Another batsman who I think has a really bright future is Karnataka’s R Samarth, a young kid who has that extra second to play the ball. He always seems to be in the right position. He has had to wait for his chances at the state level, as it wasn't easy getting a spot in a strong Karnataka side, but now that he has got in, he has made the spot his own.
He looks very composed at the crease. His technique is superb, and from what we have seen, he seems to have a rock solid temperament too. He is a good player of the back foot, and if one has to succeed at the international level, one has to have the ability to play scoring shots of the back foot. Samarth has that ability.
There are other batsmen who have done well over the last few years and will go on to have fantastic careers (Surya Kumar Yadav, Sudip Chatterjee and Unmukt Chand to name a few).
Yet, I have no doubt that Karun, Shreyas and Samarth (to steal from the avid cricket lover Jeffrey Archer's book title) are "first among equals".