The new legion of Indian batsmen
Shikhar Dhawan‘s electrifying century on debut against the Aussies in Mohali in the third Test in many ways announced the arrival of the southpaw on the big stage. Accolades poured in for the opener from Delhi and what stood out about them was the admiration for his attacking brand of batting that he displayed throughout his innings. He got into the right positions and drove confidently against the seamers, whilst keeping the scoring rate high and constantly ticking the scoreboard, even as Murali Vijay was stroking the ball well at the other end, albeit not at such frenetic pace.
Dhawan is another modern-day batsman who has emerged from years of gruelling domestic cricket for Delhi and North Zone, and playing IPL for his franchise. He is a product of his times, and one more among the current crop of fearless, aggressive batsmen to emerge from the domestic circuit, for whom the bat is more a sword than a shield. These are the youngsters who will feature in our middle order in the years to come, even as India enters a transitional phase in its tenure as a cricketing nation. What the team needs are players who will seamlessly shoulder the responsibilities that come with being a middle order batsman for India, and who can progress and grow into champions themselves as they go about proving themselves both at home and abroad.
There is an unmistakable trend in the quality and style of the batsmen who are making a mark and knocking on the doors of international cricket today, and that is the emergence of the suave, aggressive, positive generation of players who do not mind taking a few risks along the way as long as they are expressing themselves. These are the guys who have taken to the IPL like ducks to water and are increasingly positioning themselves as attacking batsmen in the mould of the Sehwags and Jayasuriyas. What is an area of concern is the technique and temperament of the new legion of Indian batsmen, who are yet to be tested in grinding conditions abroad, against the most challenging bowlers and pitches. It is in those situations that the real men will stand up and be counted. Virat Kohli‘s stature as a batsman skyrocketed after he shut his inner demons with that outstanding hundred against a good Australian attack at Hobart, when everything seemed to be going against him. In him, we see an assuring sign of not just a batsman, but a leader for the future as well. The youngsters of today would do well to try and emulate his attitude in this regard.
The solidity of our batting line-ups of the previous decade was one of impeccable assurance; every player was one to watch out for and a legend in his own right. Sehwag and Gambhir at the top provided a balanced left-right combination, Dravid was the ‘Rock of Gibraltor’ at 3, Sachin was the genius at 4, Ganguly and Laxman were depended on to finish with a good score at 5 and 6. Each one extended his services both at home and abroad with consistency and forged India into a fighting unit. The current crop will do well to follow suit, at least in intent, and show the determination to succeed in trying conditions outside the subcontinent. They will know that it is the performances overseas that will stamp them as players of repute in the circuit. They must realise that the IPL should and will only serve as a platform for recognition of talent, and not exhibition of character.
The batting order today consists of players who are eager and willing to go the extra mile to secure a permanent place in the team with their performances, and that is a good sign. The Vijays, Pujaras, Rainas, and – of late – the Dhawans, are promising and are the way forward. Elder statesmen and experienced campaigners like Tendulkar, Dhoni and Kohli must blood this young generation and allow them the time frame that is required to ease into their roles and establish themselves. To expect them to lift their game overnight when India play South Africa in hostile conditions would be futile and unrealistic. Rome was not built in a day. Great careers are built with time and patience.
The Indian team is in a state of change, and there is dynamic exchange of ideas and opinions as to what would be the way forward. The talent base is there, and the contents are looking in good shape. It is a matter of conditioning, processing and grooming them to make the most of opportunities and look to play for the right reasons. They will be under immense pressure abroad, but that is also what will prove to be a process of development for them. Their true test is yet to come, but the signs are promising.