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"Just grind yourself out of the tough times" - Karun Nair remembers his Chennai triple-ton

Karun Nair
Karun Nair
Modified 13 Feb 2021

Every time Ajinkya Rahane fails to perform for India, there's an outcry to bring back Karun Nair. Similar reactions unfolded on Tuesday when the vice-captain got out for a duck in India's improbable chase against England in Chepauk - coincidentally the ground where Nair played his last Test innings (2016).

And it wasn't just an innings. It was a triple-hundred, only the second by an Indian batsman. It was a show of grit and determination of the highest caliber. But it wasn't enough to replace Rahane - out with an injury in that match - as India's Test No. 5.

Nevertheless, his knock of 303* remains in the heart of every Indian fan. In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Karun Nair talked through the memories he has of the epic knock.

"It was the first time I was picked in the main squad. It was a day or two before that Anil sir [Kumble, then head coach] and Virat [Kohli] spoke to me, and that's when I knew I'd be playing," said Karun Nair.

Nair didn't score much in his previous two innings in the series. In Chennai as well, he made a jittery start, hitting 13 off 42 balls. But here he had his childhood friend and Karnataka teammate KL Rahul beside him to ease his nerves.

"The pressure affected how I started. But I was lucky that I had Rahul with me. Having played so much together, to have him was helpful. He made me realize that I need to get out of the shell. It was then I got a couple of boundaries and I felt much more free.
"When we were 11, we were in the Karnataka Under-13 team. Since then, we have played all age groups together. So it was just like batting in another game for Karnataka because it felt so comfortable batting with him. Once you get comfortable with the match situation, everything becomes easy and also opens up to a lot of different possibilities. You have to just grind yourself out of the tough times," Nair remembers.

Rahul missed his double by 1 run as Adil Rashid broke through the 161-run stand with an innocuous short and wide delivery. But Karun Nair carried on, changing his bat after every few overs, increasing his batting after every half-century.

"I had never thought about me being there" - Karun Nair

Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane

When Karun Nair reached 299, Rashid tried the same tactic with which he got Rahul out. He had 4 catchers on the off-side and bowled a short delivery close to the wide mark. Karun Nair almost got out too, but the ball off his cut shot fell short of a diving extra cover fielder and went for a boundary.

Describing how he felt at that moment, Karun Nair said:

"It was surreal. It was such a special feeling. I didn't realize that [at the time] because I was very tired. I had never thought about me being there. The declaration was pushed for another over or two till I got my 300. Those were special moments and something that I can look back upon. I credit my parents for supporting me throughout my career and all the coaches who have helped me to get to the level that I have. It's a combination of hard work, determination and talent for me to get to where I got."

India wrapped up England's 4th innings inside 88 overs and clinched the series 4-0.

One can say it was unfair on Karun Nair not to play any Tests after that knock. But the 29-year-old didn't help his own cause either. In the coming years, Nair failed to recreate the magic even in domestic cricket, as Rahane cemented his place on the first side, bit by bit.

Now India need something of that quality when they take on a common opponent England on Saturday, once again at Chepauk. Can an out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane stand up and do something nearly as good as what Nair did 4 years ago? Or will the chants to bring Nair back reinvigorate?

The answers are only a few hours away.

Published 13 Feb 2021, 01:57 IST
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