Siraj, Axar & Natarajan Among Sensational India Debuts This Season

While the seniors delivered, India were able to call upon a clutch of debutants, all of whom made their mark.

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Cricket
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 Shardul Thakur, Kartik Tyagi, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini and T Natarajan pose with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. (L to R)
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Sandwiched between the IPL in UAE and the upcoming edition beginning 9 April was a very successful season of international cricket for the Indian men’s team. And for a quite a part of the season they had their backs to the wall, without the services of their best batsman, Virat Kohli.

India won a historic second consecutive Test series in Australia and then put England through a fair amount of misery across formats.

While the senior pros stood up and delivered time and again, India were able to call upon a clutch of debutants, all of whom more than made their mark in conditions that were often quite hostile, especially in Australia.

In Australia and then back home against England, the latest to inductees into the Indian men’s cricket team made their chances count, leaving season opposition players baffled.

Shubman Gill

(Test Debut – Melbourne, Boxing Day Test vs Australia)

Brought in to replace an out-of-sorts Prithvi Shaw after the Adelaide defeat, the Punjab batsman was able to hold his own against a full-strength Australian attack, leaving the experts well entertained with his shot-making, timing and overall control.

Gill then top-scored for India in the crucial third Test at the SCG with 50 off 101 deliveries in the second innings. In that Test, he and Rohit put together two 70-run opening stands, a rarity for India on the tour before playing a match-winning hand in the final Test at the Gabba with a sublime 91 off 146 deliveries (top-score for India) giving India the platform in their record chase of 328.

What was most impressive was that he wasn’t intimidated against some very aggressive fast bowling. Against England, however he did not enjoy that much success, scoring a fifty only in the second innings of the series opener against England in Chennai.

Mohammed Siraj

(Test Debut – Melbourne, Boxing Day Test vs Australia)

With Mohammed Shami out injured and no Ishant Sharma, India called upon Mohammed Siraj as their second debutant in Melbourne, and the pacer bowled his heart out, causing a fair bit of bother to Australia. More responsibility was thrust on him when early in the second innings of the Test, Umesh Yadav pulled up, leaving Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah as the only pace options for Ajinkya Rahane.

Siraj started off with a five-wicket match haul before taking up the charge of leading the India attack in his third Test at The Gabba, where he rounded off his tour with a five-wicket haul to set up a famous Indian win.

The tour had started rather sadly for him as he lost his father and then was faced with racist jibes from the crowd, but he turned it around every time, producing important moments for his side.

Siraj again put his hands up and delivered in the big fourth Test against England in Ahmedabad. Replacing Jasprit Bumrah, he got the massive wickets of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow early in England’s first innings to give the visitors a double jolt – England could not quite recover and were bowled out for 205 giving India ascendancy in the match.

Not to forget he was crucial to R Ashwin’s century as well in the second Test in Chennai, when he kept frustrating the England bowlers at his end.

T Natarajan

(ODI and T20I debut in Canberra vs Australia, Test debut at The Gabba vs Australia)

From not being anywhere near the scheme of things, the soft spoken Natarajan made his debut for India across formats in a matter of months and was undoubtedly one the best stories of the season.

It kicked off with the IPL for him where made a mark for his accurate bowling in the death overs before an injury to Varun Chakravarthy saw him fly out to Australia.

Natarajan, who is yet to wicketless in a game across formats, started off with two as India won the final ODI against Australia, who were scoring big runs for fun. He brought out his yorkers once again in the three T20Is finishing with figures of 3/30, 2/20 and 1/33 as India won the series before the Tests began.

Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic and whole host of injuries to the frontline bowlers saw Natarajan thrown into the mix in Brisbane, where he picked 3 big wickets in the first innings to derail Australia.

Natarajan, Siraj, Washington Sundar (Debut at The Gabba), Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur was India’s bowling attack in the decisive Test. He played another ODI and T20I against England after career-defining Australia tour, picking a wicket in each.

Washington Sundar

(Test Debut – Brisbane, The Gabba vs Australia)

Much like Natarajan, Washington Sundar had a good IPL 2020 and was one of the finds of the tour of Australia, especially in red-ball cricket – a format considered to be his weakest suit, up until then.

Under pressure, like Siraj, Gill and Natarajan, the Tamil Nadu man put in a brilliant performance, thwarting the Australian attack and then scoring a half century on Test debut. With the ball as well, he did well to keep things tight at his end, somewhat similar to R Ashwin, picking 4 wickets in the Test and also playing a handy knock in the second innings.

Back in India he didn’t play the first Test against England but scored an unbeaten 85 in the second and an unbeaten 96 in the fourth as the hosts won comfortably. He also picked a couple of crucial wickets in the two Ahmedabad Tests before going on to do his thing with the ball in the T20 series after that.

Navdeep Saini

(Test debut – Sydney, vs Australia)

The pacer from Haryana made his debut in Sydney and returned with four wickets in the match – these included two top-middle order wickets. Saini got the wickets of Labuschagne and Wade in successive overs which halted Australia’s charge which in turn meant that they consumed more overs in their second innings.

He went wicketless in the Gabba Test and hasn’t featured yet for India since.

Axar Patel

(Test Debut – Chennai, vs England)

An injury meant a delayed debut by one game, but for Axar it hardly mattered as he looked very much a part of the set-up in the three Tests against England. With 27 wickets in his first three Tests at an average of 10.59, Patel has made one of the best starts by any bowler in the longest format.

Replacing the injured Ravindra Jadeja was never going to be easy, but Axar, who had made his debut in first-class cricket 8 years ago, was more than comfortable on tracks that aided the spinners against a batting that was fragile other than Joe Root.

While Axar kept chipping away at England, the Kohli led side never looked like they had missed Jadeja, a formidable performance by any stretch of imagination.

Unfortunately, Axar might have to wait it out for another go in Tests with Jadeja fit and raring to go.

Ishan Kishan congratulated by Virat Kohli after reaching his fifty 
Ishan Kishan congratulated by Virat Kohli after reaching his fifty 
Image: BCCI

Ishan Kishan

(T20I Debut – Ahmedabad, vs England)

Often referred to as the pocket-dynamite, Ishan Kishan showed exactly why he is called that in his first shot at the highest level against one of the best white-ball attacks going currently.

Brought in for the 2nd T20I against England the left hander was pushed up the order and he played a blistering knock of 56 to put the pressure on the visitors and ease some off his captain at the other end.

Kishan could not repeat his heroics in the next game and was injured after that but will be looking to give bowlers the similar kind of treatment in the upcoming IPL for Mumbai Indians, for whom he was the top scorer last season.

Suryakumar Yadav on the attack in the 4th T20I against England. 
Suryakumar Yadav on the attack in the 4th T20I against England. 
Image: BCCI

Suryakumar Yadav

(T20I Debut – Ahmedabad, vs England)

Another Mumbai Indians’ player who shone in his first chance to bat. He did not get a bat in the first game but the moment his turn came in the fourth T20I, he took off with a first ball six against Jofra Archer.

In that innings, he hammered a 31-ball 57 when Sharma, Rahul, and Virat Kohli failed and took home the Player-of-the-Match award. In the series decider, he showed a lot of clarity in his choice of shots while scoring a 17-ball 32.

Krunal Pandya

(ODI Debut – Pune, vs England)

The left hander had an emotional debut, scoring a record-breaking half century in the first ODI to give India a competitive total against England before picking a wicket later on.

Krunal, like Axar, was filling in for Jadeja in the ODIs and played a fantastic counter-attacking knock when the team needed it the most.

While he did not enjoy too much success after that, his debut innings, which saw him get emotional after will remain special as he dedicated it to his late father.

Prasidh Krishna

(ODI Debut – Pune, vs England)

Earmarked as someone who could be the X-factor for Team India by none other than Virat Kohli, the Karnataka man proved his worth in his first day at office.

Nervous to start with, Krishna however bounced back with the wickets of Jason Roy, Ben Stokes and Sam Billings in his second spell, registering the best ever figures by a male Indian cricketer on debut in ODIs.

He picked two more wickets in the next game before finishing wicketless in the third, having made his mark on debut.

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