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Handing debuts to young cricketers continues to pay off for India

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Pune, March 23 (IANS) India’s decision to hand out debuts paid dividends once again on Tuesday when all-rounder Krunal Pandya returned with the fastest-ever half-century on ODI debut, against England, here.

Pandya’s fearless attack and him catching the English bowlers by surprise in the first ODI at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium comes after India found fruitful returns from other debutants over the last few months.

Washington Sundar was handed debut in the fourth and final Test in Australia in Brisbane and he responded with four wickets besides scoring 62 and 22.

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The 62 Sundar made in the first innings of the fourth Test came in a match-turning partnership with Shardul Thakur, who was playing only his second Test — first after 2018 — and made 67 while also picking seven wickets.

T. Natarajan, who made his international debut across all formats in Australia — T20I, ODI and Test, also played his first Test in Brisbane and picked three wickets in the first innings.

India had earlier on that Australia series handed India caps to pace bowler Mohammed Siraj, opener Shubman Gill and pacer Navdeep Saini. All of them had played limited overs cricket before.

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Siraj and Gill played key roles in helping India win the Test series. Siraj bowled the most number of overs by an Indian in that series and returned as their highest wicket-taker with 13 scalps. Gill got 259 runs at an average of 51.8 with two half-centuries.

On return home, India began their Test series against England with a loss. But they brought in Axar Patel, handing him a Test cap. Patel clicked, picking 27 wickets in three wickets to play the lead role in India winning the four match Test series 3-1.

The experimentation continued in the T20 International series with Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav playing their first-ever international matches although they had already been household names through their exploits in the Indian Premier League while representing the Mumbai Indians.

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Both Yadav and Kishan scored half-centuries in their first international knocks, Yadav scoring 57 off 31 in his second T20I — he hadn’t batted in the first. Kishan had made 56 off 32 balls while opening in his debut knock.

In Tuesday’s first ODI against England, Krunal scored a half-century while pace bowler M. Prasidh Krishna was among wickets, picking the first two of English wickets.

In early 2000s, India under Sourav Ganguly also blooded many youngsters who eventually became the core of a strong India team that went on to win the 2007 T20 World Cup as well as the 50-over world Cup in 2011 at home.

Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan made their ODI debut in the same match, the pre-quarterfinal against Kenya in the ICC Knockout Trophy, now known as the Champions Trophy. Harbhajan, who had made his debut in Tests and ODIs in 1998 also got into the groove towards the turn of the century.

Before that, Rahul Dravid and Ganguly had made their Test debuts on the 1996 tour of England and performed well to establish themselves as India’s batting greats.

However, so many debutants making such an early impression in their careers has rarely happened in Indian cricket before.

A part of the reason is the confidence and preparation provided by the IPL in handling high-pressure situations against world class players. So, when players are handed India caps, they show no nerve and take on opposition with confidence.

“I think a lot has to do with IPL. The fact that they share dressing rooms with international players, they rub shoulders with the best, that complex factor disappears very quickly,” Shastri had said while talking about the confidence with which both Gill and Siraj had approached the second Test in Australia in Melbourne.

–IANS

kh/qma

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