Good luck, West Indies.
Having conceded 649 runs to India, the visitors barely made a dent to that total as they were bowled all out for just 181 by the morning session of the third day.
There were three centuries for the Indians – through debutant Prithvi Shaw, captain fantastic Virat Kohli and local boy Ravindra Jadeja – and the Windies must somehow match those feats if they are to scrape a draw in Rajkot over the next three days.
It only became more grim after losing opener skipper Kraigg Brathwaite before lunch. Then leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav took over, as he claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket before the hosts wrapped up a mammoth win by an innings and 277 runs.
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First it was Karun Nair. Then Murali Vijay joined in. And just like that, the dysfunctional communication system within the Indian cricket set-up came out in the open.
After middle order batsman Nair was not given a single opportunity during the 4-1 Test series defeat in England, questions were asked as to why he was benched throughout even as late selection Hanuma Vihari ended up playing the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
Nair was dropped from the squad altogether for the two-Test series against the West Indies. And right before getting the axe, Nair revealed in an interview with Cricbuzz that no one from the management in England talked to him about the reasons behind his continued omission from the team.
Right after his revelations, chief selector MSK Prasad said fellow selector Devang Gandhi had spoken to Nair at length about the reason for his exclusion.
Then it was the turn of Vijay to state that none of the selectors spoke to him after he was dropped after the third Test in England.
“Nothing at all. Neither the chief selector nor any other person spoke to me in England after I was dropped from the third Test,” Vijay told Mumbai Mirror. “None of them have spoken to me since. I did have a conversation with the members of the team management in England and that’s it.”
After the Nair controversy, captain Virat Kohli was asked whether he talked to players who were left out. Instead of being sympathetic, Kohli said it was not his job.
“The chief selector has already spoken to the player (Nair) of what I know. I don’t think I need to comment on that. Selection is not my job. As a team we are doing what we are supposed to,” Kohli said on the eve of the first Test against the West Indies in Rajkot.
So the selectors didn’t talk to the players, according to the players, and the captain doesn’t think it is important to guide those out of the team during difficult times.
Any player can be in and out of the team. Form, conditions, team combination all play a role and you can only field 11 at a time. Also sometimes you look at the next option. That’s just how professional sport is.
But for two Test players to reveal how the management has let them down when they needed clear communication and a frank one-on-one shows how unaccommodating the Indian dressing room is.
The picture that Nair and Vijay have painted is that of a dressing room full of impatience where there is no room to either make mistakes or work your way in. You better be exactly what the team bigwigs want at that given point or you are cast aside.
Nair was dropped after he scored a triple century against England in the 2016 Chennai Test. For the last two seasons, Vijay was the one of the few consistent performers at the top of the order in overseas Tests for India.
The Indian team probably wants to move on and try out new names. But leaving the ‘unwanted’ players by the road is cruel. They might end up with a bunch of 11 good players but it will never be a team.
Five years ago, a 14-year-old hit 546 runs in an inter-school cricket match in Mumbai. Back then, it was the highest score by a batsman in any form of cricket since 1902.
While he was batting, the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team’s selection committee was meeting, and deciding to appoint him their U16 captain.
Fast-forward to January 2017, and that boy, now 17, made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai’s senior side, in a semi-final.
Facing a fourth-innings target of 261, he scored 105 to lead his side into the final, in the process becoming the youngest player to score a ton on debut for Mumbai since a certain Sachin Tendulkar.
Later that same year, the boy surpassed the little master, breaking Tendulkar’s record for the youngest centurion on Duleep Trophy debut.
On Thursday, Prithvi Shaw, now 18, became the youngest-ever Indian to score a Test century on debut. Should that come as any surprise?
Only Tendulkar, the player Shaw has idolised since he was a child, and modelled his game after, has scored a century for India at a younger age, and even he didn’t do it in his first match.
At times against the West Indies on Thursday, one could have been forgiven for thinking it was the great Indian batsman at the crease. Shaw stands at roughly the same height as Tendulkar, has the same punchy drives and cuts, and bats with a similar flourish.
The comparison has followed Shaw since his days racking up runs in school cricket, and though he’s always kept a level head and downplayed it, the hype has grown and grown. On the first chance he had to justify it, the youngster delivered.
He might be just 18, and baby-faced, but there’s no doubting his talent now. After feeling nervous at the start of his innings, Shaw decided to play as if this was just any other game.
The result was reaching 50 in 56 balls even after fellow opener KL Rahul had been dismissed for a four-ball duck, then accelerating to get to his ton in just 99 deliveries, the third-fastest debut ton in Test history, before finally being dismissed for 134.
The Tendulkar comparisons are inevitable, but Shaw’s innings was also a throwback to different swashbuckling Indian batsman, who also scored a ton on debut.
Virender Sehwag used to show the same sort of disdain for bowlers, especially spinners, and, eerily, India’s run rate dipped sharply on Thursday after Shaw got out, just as it used to when Sehwag got out.
But more than flashes of Indian greats, what really stands out about Shaw is his composure, the clarity of thought that has been guiding his batting for years. Just compare how he’s responded to two different record-breaking in innings.
Back in 2013, he said, “I was just being patient. I didn’t know about the record. I was just concentrating on my batting, picking the singles and doubles, and the loose balls for boundaries.”
And on Thursday: “I was waiting for the loose balls and they bowled many boundary balls. So I was trying to balance it out between playing the ball on its merit and attacking the loose balls.”
It’s been five years of hype, lofty comparisons, records, and monumental achievements, and Prithvi Shaw may have arrived in international cricket, but he’s still the same boy who just can’t stop batting.