For 28 years, the No. 3 spot in Indian Test cricket was held by two duos, Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara. Together these two have played a total of 267 Tests batting in this order. The duo’s style of play is reminiscent of classical music, with mental fortitude, technique, avoidance of over-looks and possession of the crease as important as hard work and adding runs on the board. Both of them were brilliant with their defense technique. Remember Sydney 2008 or Johannesburg 2018 where there was more applause for the empty balls he dropped than the runs he scored. Both of these left their mark on you.
Dropping the ball is something you probably can’t get out of your mind and solid defense is their USP. Due to this, these two managed to score a total of 20,483 runs and 55 centuries in Tests. But now the weather has changed. In the order where a strong defense is required for batting, now there is talk of fitting two batsmen for whom attack is the best defense. India will now open the new WTC cycle with a two-Test series in the West Indies in July and Pujara is not in the squad. India now has three options to fill its place.
Out of which Rituraj Gaikwad and Yashaswi Jaiswal have been selected in the team for the first time. While Shubman Gill is the opener in all three formats. Regardless of who they pick, one thing is certain: unlike before, India will pick a T20 superstar to fill one of the most important batting positions. Most indications now are that a youngster will be chosen for the role and it will be the 21-year-old Jaiswal from Mumbai, who has been in great form for the last three seasons.
Arguably, Jaiswal has been chosen because of the IPL as no uncapped batsman has scored more runs (625) in the 2023 season, including the fastest 13-ball fifty of the tournament. He enjoys pulling and hooking fast bowlers with ease. He enjoys training with Jos Buttler’s scoop and spends a lot of time with him on and off the field. Those who know Jaiswal claim that his never-give-up attitude is a hallmark of his personality. A young man who constantly focuses on improving himself.
Speaking to the media last year, Jaiswal said, “I think if you ask for help, you will get it and when you have a lot of people ready to help you, you have to step up as a young man.” Later I realized that not only my T20 batting improved but also my English. Earlier this month, Jaiswal was included in the squad as a reserve player after Rituraj Gaikwad pulled out of the WTC finals due to his marriage. And after losing the final, when Rohit Sharma talked about the brand of cricket and said that he needs guys who are doing well in domestic cricket.
This was a sign that the team would go through a phase of change in the next WTC cycle. It was from here that Jaiswal was selected. His first class record is superb. He has scored 1845 runs in 26 innings at an average of 80.21. He has converted 11 half-centuries into centuries. He is at a stage where he is showing hunger for runs. This hunger forced him to spend some time sleeping in a tent in Mumbai. This made him realize that if someone makes 100, he has to make 200 to get attention. A clarification is necessary here that Jaiswal is unlikely to be the next wall for the team. His strike rate is close to 70 which shows that he is a free stroker who does not compromise on his technique. Jaiswal always plays the ball under the eyes. And his footwork balances him against short balls, where he easily plays the ball towards square. However, what sets him apart is his ability to get inside the line and play an equal number of strokes towards long leg.