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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Axar Patel's dream debut and Ashwin's provoking thoughts !!

If your Cricket memory is very bright, you may have recalled that ODI at Dhaka on 15.6.2014 when India won by 7 wickets.  Bangladesh made 272/9 and India made 153/3 (no prize for guessing that it was revised target by D/L method)

To many of us, Srirangam Rangarajan (Sujatha) was the most intelligent man and his writings mesmerized us.  Srinivasan Venkatraghavan was a look-alike and perhaps was equally brilliant .. .. among modern day Cricketers, we adore Ravichandran Ashwin (not only for that brilliant double at Chepauk in this Test) – more so, for his Cricketing acumen, the way he speaks and the way he constantly chases changes !!  .. hallmark of a genius.

Looking back, remembered the bespectacled man who debuted in the 1st Test of against Australia at this same venue,  Chepauk.  It was Test no. 855 played in Sept 1979.  Kim Hughes and Sunil Gavaskar were the Captains. Playing first Australia made 390, thanks to centuries by Alan Border [162] and Kim Hughes [100].  From 2 for 75, they had a 222 run partnership.  Kapil Dev bowled well taking 2 wickets; it was the debutant Dilip Doshi who stole the show taking 6 for 103 off his 43 overs.  India replied soundly making 425 ~ surprisingly no centuries but 50s by Gavaskar, Kirmani who came in as nightwatchman, Vengsarkar, Yashpal Sharma and 83 by Kapil Dev.  John Higgs, a leg spinner took 7 wickets.   Australians started their 2nd innings towards the end of the 4th day and ended up making 212/7 with half centuries by Hilditch and Border.  Venkatraghavan took 3 and Doshi got 2 wickets.  The match ended in a tame draw…… that was a 6 match series.   In the next test another good spinner, Shivlal Yadav debuted.

Doshi is one of only four Test bowlers that played their first Test after the age of thirty, yet went on to take more than 100 wickets, the other three being Clarrie Grimmett, Saeed Ajmal and Ryan Harris. ‘Spin Punch’ was his auto-biography. Doshi is probably one of the few cricketers who after retiring from the game chose an entirely different playing field.  He was the Managing Director of Entrack India, a firm that marketted Montblanc pens in India.   

After delivering a dream performance in front of his home crowd, R Ashwin  asked for more positivity, understanding and pride from the cricket community in India. Ashwin's eight-wicket haul and century led India to a series-levelling win in Chennai where the crowd made him "feel like a hero", cheering every move of his on the ground.  However, one of the other heroes of India's incredible success in Australia and here, Rishabh Pant, was not long ago made to feel like a villain in Indian grounds when the crowds chanted MS Dhoni's name whenever he made a mistake. Ashwin compared the opinion around Pant to the one around a young Australia cricketer when asked what he made of Pant's wicketkeeping.

"I didn't think I would say this but I am coming out and saying it," Ashwin said. "But because you are asking me this question, I couldn't think of anything else. About two months ago we had a cricketer called Cameron Green who made his debut for Australia. Even before he made his debut, everybody said he was the next big thing. And as he was playing, I think he got one fifty in the entire series. I don't think he got a wicket through the series. But how much he was built up and how much confidence he was given back in Australia made me reflect and think about how we as a community treat our cricketers when they come through, the young ones. It gave me a massive perspective.  Yes Ashwin’s perspective is correct .. .. youngsters need to be supported and groomed.  There should never be unwanted comparisons and derisive statements.  If Axar had done well, good, even otherwise when a player gets a chance – he needs solid support of all to perform well (there is no point in comments like – Axar would not have played if Jadeja was fit or someother bowler too would have performed in a pitch of this sort)

India cruised to victory in a little over a session on the fourth day at Chepauk, Axar Patel collecting a five-wicket haul on debut as England went down by a crushing margin of 317 runs - emphatic retribution after the tourists had gone 1-0 up on this ground less than a week earlier.  On a classically subcontinental surface, England twice could barely match the individual contribution of India's first-innings centurion, Rohit Sharma, and were left with precious few scraps with which to slink off to Ahmedabad ahead of the day-night encounter, their six-match winning run in away Tests at a halt.

The only slight regret for another enthusiastic crowd came in the absence of another R Ashwin landmark for them to acknowledge - he finished with 8 for 96, narrowly short of becoming only the fourth man to score a century and take ten-for in a Test.  Cannot help the feeling that perhaps Kohli should have continued with him, rather than double left-arm spin attack towards the end !! but .. .. …

England's task on their return to the ground was a near-futile one, but there was the potential to spend time in the middle against India's spinners and salt away knowledge for the battles ahead. As it was, only Joe Root spent any significant amount of time at the crease - even 33 from 92 balls was modest by his recent standards - and barely a shot was played in anger until Moeen Ali  thought of IPL auction and tried showcasing his skills for the IPL franchisees swinging five towering sixes before being last man out, stumped off Kuldeep Yadav.

Pant was a revelation – made runs with the bat, caught a couple flying awy from him and made couple of acrobatic stumpings.  Fittingly,  the game ended with the ball in the hands of Rishabh Pant. This was only the sixth time in Tests that a match had featured five or more stumpings - and India's march to victory on the fourth morning began with another, as Dan Lawrence charged at Ashwin only to be nutmegged, leaving Pant to seal his fate after collecting brilliantly down the leg side.

Axar Patel had a remarkable debut – taking five wickets in an innings in  his first Test.  He joins an elite list.  The first Indian to take a five-wicket haul was Mohammad Nissar in June 1932 against England.  A great classy Vaman Kumar, a leg spinner,  took 5/64 against Pakistan but sadly played just one more test !!   Syed Abid Ali took 6 wickets for 55 runs against Australia.  Then there are - Dilip Doshi, Narendra Hirwani, Amit Mishra, Ravi Ashwin &  Mohammad Shami, in that group. Axar has now registered the seventh-best figures of 5-60 for an India bowler on debut in red-ball internationals. Narendra Hirwani (8-61, 8-75) is the topper.

Way back in 15th June 2014 at Dhaka against Bangladesh, Axar Patel made his ODI debut alongside  Parvez Rasool – in between played IPL, Ranji, T20I and everything else – and at last got his chance at Chepauk. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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