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IND Vs ENG, 3rd Test Review: The Coming Of Indian Young Guns

Even with all the brilliance and sterling performances of the Rohit Sharmas and Ravindra Jadejas, the third India vs England Test match in Rajkot was essentially about the emergence of new stars in Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel. etc.

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Yashasvi Jaiswal, left, and Sarfaraz Khan during Day 4's play of the India vs England third Test in Rajkot on February 18, 2024. Photo: AP
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After India's sensational 434-run win over England in Rajkot, young Yashasvi Jaiswal made a wonderful point in a post-match interview. When asked where his confidence, motivation and hunger to play such big knocks comes from, speaking straight from his heart, the 22-year-old said that he knows how much competition there is for each and everything in India, even for simple things like getting on to a bus or a local train, where you compete with others for a seat on a daily basis. (Scorecard | As It Happened | More Cricket News)

Having seen that side of life, growing up in the maidans of Mumbai, doing odd jobs around the ground just to be allowed to stay and play, he knows how important it is to succeed. That has taught him to value success even in the smallest things in life. So when the big opportunities come along, he is just not ready to let them go till he has made the most of them.

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And that is why when he is playing well and the conditions are favourable and the wicket is true, he backs himself enough to go after a legend like James Anderson, without any fear or misgiving. He knows there will be times when he will miss out, but when he does get going, he goes into a mental zone where he keeps doing effortlessly, what he has worked so hard all these years at.

Again and again and again!

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India's Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates his double century against England in Rajkot on February 18, 2024. Photo: A
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That explains why the lowest of his three hundreds in Test cricket is 171, why he already has two double-hundreds to his name in his first seven Test matches, and also why he has hit 22 sixes and counting in the ongoing India vs England series. He wants to make every ball count, every innings count. He is prepared to do all that it takes to do it.

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That's where his hunger comes from. And it augurs well for India, for a long, long time to come.

It’s the same with Dhruv Jurel, the same with Sarfaraz Khan. And Shubhnam Gill. They are all just as hungry and focussed on doing well and making the most of the opportunities that have come their way. Because notwithstanding their talents, these youngsters know how fortunate they are, to have those opportunities in a land of 1.3 billion, where every second person plays cricket, in some form or the other.

So you either stay hungry and stay focussed, or fade away. Because if you lose the script, there is always someone else who is waiting to pick it up.

Much like the great West Indian cricketers of the 1950s and 60s, this is the new 'Indian Dream', of a young lad from modest circumstances, making a name for himself on par with the greatest in the world.

With just about half an hour of play left before tea when England began their second innings on the penultimate day, the match looked to be sailing comfortably into the fifth day. But Ravindra Jadeja, bowling on his home ground, had other plans, and India incredibly finished off the game as the shadows lengthened on the fourth evening itself, coasting home by 434 runs.

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Debutant Dhruv Jurel is greeted by his India teammates ahead of the third Test against England in Rajkot on February 15, 2024. Photo: AP
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The England run chase if it could be called that, floundered even before it had begun and the ship went down with all hands on deck with no one taking a stand this time to turn things around, like Ollie Pope had done so brilliantly in the first Test Match and Ben Duckett did equally well in the first innings in Rajkot.

Things just unravelled for them here.

This match, even with all the brilliance and sterling performances of the Rohit Sharmas and Ravindra Jadejas, was essentially about the emergence of the nucleus of a new Indian top order in Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sarfaraz Khan and Shubhman Gill, with a Dhruv Jurel coming in lower down, marking the passing of the baton from one generation of Indian batters to their successors.

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In these conditions, on these pitches, these young Indians were just too good for the England bowlers -- a partnership of 172 in 159 balls between Jaiswal and Sarfaraz emphatically highlighted their complete domination. Great use of the feet, shots all around the wicket, going aerial fearlessly at will; these are special, once-in-a-generation players who promise to be around for a long time to come.

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Sarfaraz Khan, third left, is greeted by his father as he prepares to play his first Test during the India vs England match in Rajkot on February 15, 2024. Photo: AP
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In the company of free-flowing Jaiswal, Khan, having waited so long for his opportunity, was himself in no mood to dawdle as he raced to his second 50 in his debut Test in just 55 balls, to match his first 50 off 48 balls in the first innings before finally finishing on 68 not out off 72. He took to Test Cricket like a duck to water, raising his bat to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd and the kisses blown by his ecstatic parents from the stands.

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There was a great sense of balance in his batting, great use of the depth of the crease, the fearless lofting of the ball. He seemed so at home in all that he did at the crease. Like Yashasvi and Gill, he was determined to make the day count and he wasn’t going to waste any time doing it. He had waited long enough for this moment, for this stage.

And he scored quickly, helping the team's cause. The result was a scoreboard moving faster than the closing stages of a T20 innings.

Sarfaraz Khan’s debut also marked a just reward for all those young cricketers who have made their names playing solid, old-fashioned red ball Ranji Trophy cricket. With the BCCI making a strong statement in asking players not on national duty to return to the Ranji Trophy, it augurs well for Indian cricket in the days to come. For close to 100 years now, this iconic competition has been the cradle and nurturing ground of Indian cricket, where generations after generations of Test cricketers were born and bred.

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England made a horror start to their second innings and were down to 20 for 3 just after tea, and it suddenly seemed unlikely that they would survive the day and take the match into day 5. That soon became 28 for 4 as an out-of-sorts Johnny Bairstow, in a sickening sense of daja vu, attempted a sweep from the stumps on his 4th ball, missed and was caught plumb in front, thus giving Ravindra Jadeja the second wicket of a brilliant five-wicket haul. Bairstow had attempted an exactly similar shot on the last tour to Axar Patel and got out in an exactly similar way.

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England's Joe Root plays a shot on the third day of the third Test against India in Rajkot on February 17, 2024. Photo: AP
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Joe Root, equally desperate for runs, continued to find new ways of getting out in this match and even Ben Stokes perished to the sweep, on a day when it was all downhill for England. The much-vaunted sweep play had again spelt the downfall of many an English batter, exactly as it had done in their last series in India.

The Bazball itself unravelled spectacularly in this Test match starting the morning of Day 3. The young guns of India put England to the sword with a sustained flurry of conventional cricketing shots, and of course, with their breathtaking version of Bazball. This was after the brilliant 204-run partnership between skipper Rohit Sharma, who played a captain’s knock of great character, and the gutsy Ravindra Jadeja, who scored a second successive Test hundred on his home ground. The seasoned pros, with two debutants waiting to come, pulled India back from the doldrums of 33 for 3 in the ninth over.

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India's captain Rohit Sharma, left, and England's captain Ben Stokes at the toss ahead of the third Test in Rajkot on February 15, 2024. Photo: AP
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On the other side, Ben Stokes was playing his 100th Test, Jimmy Anderson his 185th and Joe Root his 138th. But that would not count, eventually. A catch went down in the slips at that stage with Rohit Sharma on 29 and Joe Root looked an increasingly forlorn figure as the day wore on. Then the India captain piled on 102 more runs after that.

At the post-match presentation ceremony, Stokes said they would put it all behind them, and play to win the next two games. For their sake and the sake of this wonderful series that has been so competitive so far, one hopes that would indeed be the case.

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He had said a similar thing against Australia in the last Ashes series in England, after going 2-0 down, and had actually lived up to his words, coming back to level that series, in the early days of Bazball.

India would do well to keep that in mind, going forward.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author. The author is a veteran Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force, who has played Ranji Trophy for Services.

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