Indian name squad to face New Zealand

Sport360 staff 12/09/2016
Virat Kohli will lead a 15-member squad

There were no surprises as India announced the Test squad to face New Zealand this month, with selectors reducing the party from 17 to 15 from the one that comfortably beat West Indies.

Stuart Binny and Shardul Thakur were the two to miss out, neither having played on that tour of the Caribbean and both currently playing in the Duleep Trophy and Australia A vs India A unofficial Tests respectively.

It remains to be seen if captain Virat Kohli prefers to go into the game with five bowlers or not. If he does, then Rohit Sharma might be relegated to the bench again with Ravichandran Ashwin batting at number six.

The only area of debate was whether Gautam Gambhir would make a return to the squad after his fine form in the Duleep Trophy where he has registered scores of 77, 90, 59, 94 in the four innings he has batted in. The selectors decided to stick with KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan as the opening options instead.

The first Test in the series is scheduled for September 22 at Kanpur, which will be followed by Tests in Kolkata and Indore.

SQUAD

Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami,  Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.

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The growth of KL Rahul as India's mainstay

Tanay Tiwari 12/09/2016
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KL Rahul looks like he's here to stay

India’s tour of Australia, 2014/15 was a tour of many surprises. India went into the series with high expectations, but their challenge fizzled out meekly and by the time the Indian team reached Melbourne’s MCG for the third Test of the series, they looked down and out.

It would be MS Dhoni’s final Test and amid all that surrounded the Indian team, a new face was generating a lot of interest. A certain Kannaur Lokesh Rahul from Karnataka, was said to resemble Rahul Dravid both in temperament and technique and was scoring runs for fun in the Ranji Trophy.

Rahul scored 1,033 runs in fact for Karnataka, registering three centuries and three more scores in the nineties an an integral part of Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy victory. But, was he good enough to face the rampant Aussies? Did the Indian selectors rush the decision to play Rahul ahead of some more experienced names?

By the time he walked out to bat at 409-4 and after Ajinkya Rahane’s brilliant 147, his side could not have been more comfortable for a debutant.

Despite that, Rahul didn’t seem like the dominating Karnataka batsman from domestic cricket.

Kohli, batting at the other end, offered advice, but shortly afterwards Rahul swept a Nathan Lyon delivery from well outside off-stump and was cupped easily at backward square-leg.

His first Test innings ended after just three runs. It didn’t get any better in the second innings, Rahul promoted to bat at number three and lasting just six ball for his solitary single.

After his debut, debate raged over whether Rahul would retain his place in the side and if he had a future at the highest level.

However, Dhoni retired and Kohlil picked up the reins for the fourth Test in Sydney. In his own eccentric way of doing things, Kohli persisted with Rahul. It was a move that would define and shape Rahul’s career.

In Sydney, he was promoted to open the innings with Murali Vijay. While the latter was out for a duck, Rahul seemed to be almost unrecognisable from Melbourne.

He was determined to succeed, and remained more measured than desperate. He wanted the world to know that his debut was just an aberration and he was in full control of his destiny. The man who did not last even 20 balls one Test prior, brought up his maiden Test century from 262 this time out.

Rahul was long touted as a Test specialist but despite, or in spite, of his numerous critics, he has become an integral part of India short form plans.

A brilliant IPL 2016 season saw him score 397 runs at an average of just over 44 and at a strike rate of 146.49 as he proved to be far more than one dimensional.

KL Rahul Stats

  • Tests: 8, Runs: 492, Ave: 37.84, HS: 158
  • ODIs: 3, Runs: 196, Ave: 196.00, HS: 100*
  • T20Is: 5, Runs: 179, Ave: 89.50, HS: 110*

Rahul’s performances in Tests earned him an ODI spot in the squad touring Zimbabwe were, it must be said against a seemingly innocuous Zimbabwean bowling attack, he seemed composed.

At 94* with India needing 4 to win, Rahul lofted one over long-on to bring up his maiden ODI century on debut. The man who struggled with his nerves not so long ago was now standing up and delivering all that was asked of him.

Fast forward a couple of months and chasing 246 off 20 overs against the West Indies in the USA, Rahul was at it again, barely taking a risk as he raced to a first T20I century, which culminated in a blistering 110 off just 51 deliveries.

Rahul, now, has a century in all three formats of the game (only the third Indian after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma), he can keep wickets when necessary, he can open in Tests, bat in the middle-order in T20Is and ODIs and can accelerate at will.

Rahul has all the ingredients to be the perfect recipe for success.

With his bat doing all the talking, Rahul needs to persist with what he does right. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself.

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Tendulkar's first ODI century

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Sachin Tendulkar would finish his career with 49 ODI centuries

On this day in 1994, Sachin Tendulkar, a batsman who had captured imaginations like no one else, scored his first century for India against Sri Lanka.

A day-night game in Colombo, Tendulkar came out to bat alongside Manoj Prabhakar. At 6/0, a length ball on his pads from Craig McDermott and Tendulkar lifted it for a beautiful six over the deep-mid-wicket fence.

Tendulkar had 17 half-centuries before that day, which included some crucial knocks like the 52 against Pakistan at Sharjah in 1992, but that three-figure mark in Colombo eluded the master batsman.

If a six off his pads against McDermott augured well for India, consecutive sixes in Shane Warne’s over confirmed that this could perhaps be his day.

At 98*, a loosener from Warne just outside Tendulkar’s off-stump, allowed him to cut the ball for two. And there it was – the first ODI century for Sachin Tendulkar.

What happened after this memorable day in Sri Lanka was like a tale scripted in the heavens for Tendulkar. A young boy from the maidans of Mumbai, went on to become the finest batsman of his generation.

In the 385 matches that he played after the Australian game, Tendulkar scored 16,300 runs which included 48 centuries and 78 half-centuries. He annihilated every opposition, in every country that he faced them in.

When he finally bowed out of world cricket in 2013, he was considered one of the greatest players of the game.

Exactly 22 years after that balmy afternoon in Colombo, a blue-jersey clad Tendulkar’s demolition of bowlers is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

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