It says something about this Indian team that on a day Virat Kohli waltzed past Don Bradman, they still gave us other achievements to ponder about. The way the lower order–Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin – bossed around Bangladesh highlighted their contribution in increasing the halo around this team in home conditions. India whistled through to 687 for 6 declared, creating yet another world record as no other country has tallied over 600 in three successive innings.
The lower order has meant the difference between a tall score and a record-creating total. Jayant Yadav hit a ton in Mumbai which kick-started this run-fest, and now Saha has helped India finish off in style. When the home season started, there was no Yadav, and it wasn’t always clear how the other three would perform.
Saha had already played couple of vital knocks overseas but the question at the start of the season was whether he could own the sixth batsman’s spot and bat aggressively at that so that India can play with five bowlers. As the Tests have rolled by, he has shown he has proved exactly that. A few elements from his story is known—the quiet almost placid nature where even his wife asks him to show some anger at times, a love for playstation, tendency to remain almost mute behind the stumps and turn into an attacking batsman in front of it. His batting would have been easier to slot into a stereotype, if he was more vocal, and indulged in the usual verbal tricks expected of ‘keepers. Now it seems as if it’s a transformation— when he moves to front of the stumps.
When he walked in on Thursday, there was no confusion about what to do. India were already cruising along, and it made sense to turn up the heat. He should have been stumped early on when he was stranded after moving down the track to Taijul Islam but Mushfiqur Rahim messed it up. He managed to collect and the arms swooped towards the stumps but he just missed the sticks. It was a comical sight to watch, a short man unable to cover the short distance and it gave Saha a new lease. Later, Rahim was gracious enough to say: “Well played Saha”.
It also helped what his partner then and the captain Virat Kohli told him. Saha says Kohli told him to shrug off the stumping chance, and still feel free to go for his shots if he so desires. This backing from the captain has been instrumental in the recent rise of Saha. Occasionally, as it did in the Adelaide Test chase, it hasn’t come off but more often than not the increased confidence has shown in the results.
He played all around the park—sometimes rushing down the track, at times pulling and rolling out the sweeps. The only time the management told him to rein himself in was at the tea break when he was 17 runs short of the hundred. The batting coach Sanjay Bangar told him to buckle down a bit as these moments don’t come too often. “He told me play with straight bat, score 17 runs, and then hit. 100 is a special milestone, more so for me as I have played only 20 odd Tests.”
Ashwin has had more Tests than that of course and his batting isn’t a surprise anymore. He made a breezy 34 that helped Saha settle down a bit and there was this one shot that really stood out, and spoke about his talent. It was a full toss from Taskin Ahmed but it wasn’t just a hit-me-lolly. This one reversed in a bit. Ashwin, though, was absolutely spot-on with his response. He wasn’t surprised by the swing, he didn’t have to try yank open his body to cover for it, but maintained his balance, got the bat down in the right lane, and punched it ever-so sweetly past the bowler. It was quite a shot.
The entertaining knock of the trio came from Jadeja. Of all the batsmen in this team, he is the one player who shows his delight and emotions when he is out there. You can see that he loves the feeling of hitting a six. The face beams as it did when he slog-swept a six into the cowcorner yesterday and he sort of swaggers across to his partner. It’s all pretty cute. So is the sword-razzmatazz he does after reaching 50. The bat is twirled here and there – only the horses, his great love away from cricket grounds, is missing from the celebration.
Of the three, it was his batting that presented a bit of concern at the start of this home season. The contributions had lessened a bit, reflected in his demotion down the order but he has rallied back pretty well. The six counts too are increasing these days. Not all that long ago, when he would go for the big hits, there was no guarantee that he would clear the boundary. But of late, he has settled those doubts. Bangladesh felt his (entertaining) fury and India kept marching on to a total that now allows them to squeeze in the scorecard-pressure on Bangladesh.