Dubai: The survival of Tests has been a hot topic since the Twenty20 franchise cricket swept the world a decade ago. No doubt, Tests are the pinnacle of the sport, which challenges the best and only the fittest survive. The long duration of five days, as opposed to three and half hours of entertainment in a Twenty20 game, started to erode its popularity over the years. But the presence of superstars like Virat Kohli, Ben Stokes, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith have kept the fans’ interest in the longest format alive.
In recent times, England’s Bazball approach has enlivened Test cricket, making it a compelling watch. Still the main protagonists are the stars and the superstars that will give the fans plenty to cheer about.
The emergence of new stars over last two weeks has ensured that the supply chain is uninterrupted and the rising stars are preparing to carry the burden of Tests on their able shoulders over the next decade. Gulf News takes a look at five young turks who have energised Test cricket:
Yashasvi Jaiswal, 22:
A depleted Indian team without talismanic Kohli and Mohammed Shami were reeling under pressure after losing the first Test to England. And the loss of dependable KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja before the second Test ensured that India went in with a relatively inexperienced Test side. But the young Indian opener showed that he has a firm head over his shoulders to lead India to a formidable total in the first innings. His career second double century had the mix of caution with aggression and showed the patience to see a good spell go through before launching his counter-attack.
“I enjoyed the game, the battle was wonderful. One of the best moments when you win for your country,” said the 22-year-old left-hander, who has played in only six Tests so far. “Absolutely different, field and ball, mindset different. I try to play my shots and have good intent.”
Shubman Gill, 24:
Gill’s predicament was different. The Punjab batter had to move down the order after being successful in all formats as an opener. It’s an important move for Team India, who were desperately in need of a quality No 3. Over the years, Rahul Dravid held that spot since the 1990s and after his retirement, Cheteshwar Pujara held it as his own.
The 36-year-old Pujara, of late, has repeatedly failed to live up to his own expectations, which has given the Men in Blue a headache. Gill is a perfect fit for that role. He has a compact technique and is at ease playing both pace and spin. His first century at No 3 during the second innings of the second Test, first since March 2023 when he scored 123 against Australia, must have eased his nerves a bit and help in settle in his role better. The priceless 104 on a turning Visakhapatnam track helped India set a formidable target, which England failed to chase and lose by 106 runs to level the series 1-1.
In a video posted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Gill expressed that it was pleasing to score big runs finally, in front of his father who was watching his innings from the stands. He also revealed that his father told him to back his instincts. “It is really satisfying and pleasing. He is someone who has always supported me and seen my journey. It was great to score runs in front of him. My father told me to back my instincts and play the way I am playing,” said Gill.
The batter said that the first 15-20 minutes of his innings were tense as he managed to survive two close calls. He also said that one needs luck during a period of slump.
“It feels good. The first 15-20 minutes were tense, with two referrals going my way. But I think when you are not scoring runs for three to four matches, you need that bit of luck. I think I got that. I am very happy that I was able to convert it into a hundred,” said Gill.
Rachin Ravindra, 24:
Rachin Ravindra has been a sensation in the 50-over World Cup, showcasing his immense talent and the ability to soak up the pressure. The left-hander showed that he has the temperament and technique to play the longest format, scoring a double century in only his fourth Test.
The 24-year-old set a unique batting record for New Zealand, registering the highest score by a maiden century-maker. Ravindra, who won the ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year Award for 2023, scored 240 off 366 balls to surpass a 25-year-old record set by Matthew Sinclair, who scored 214 against West Indies on his debut in 1999.
Playing alongside skipper Kane Williamson, who notched up his 30th Test century to surpass legends Don Bradman and Kohli in the list of most Test centuries, Ravindra made the most to end his lean run in Tests.
“Playing alongside Kane is always very special. Sharing the crease with someone I idolise so much, life has come full circle for me. It’s a real ‘pinch-me’ moment. Seeing him go about his business as usual, with his calmness and timing, and the positions he gets himself into, it was pure batting bliss,” said Ravindra, who also took two wickets in South Africa’s first innings with his left-arm spin.
Tom Hartley, 24:
Tom Hartley had a huge task on hand when England arrived for Test series against India. The left-arm spinner had to encounter the lions of spin bowling at their own den. Undeterred, he showed great heart to claim seven wickets in the second innings, for a match haul of nine wickets, on his debut Test to script an improbable victory for England. India has long been referred as the “final frontier” in Tests and the English Lions inflicted the fourth loss on India in 47 Tests at home since 2013. The left-arm spinner continued to keep the famed Indian batters in check as he claimed four wickets in India’s second innings at Visakhapatnam to give Ben Stokes an outside chance of extending their winning run. Still, ultra-aggressive England came close to an improbable target, but failed to overhaul it.
Neil Brand, 27:
South African skipper Neil Brand created history when he claimed six wickets against New Zealand in the first innings. The 27-year-old left-arm spinner returned with the best bowling figures on Test debut while leading the side. The Proteas had arrived in New Zealand with a second-string Test team after all of their star players were busy with the South Africa’s Twenty20 franchise league. Brand has gone past Bangladesh’s Naimur Rahman, who secured 6/132 against India in November 2000. This was also Bangladesh’s first-ever Test.
The best figures by a South African bowler on Test debut are by legendary all-rounder Lance Klusener, getting 8/64 against India back in November 1996. Brand is also the first-ever South African spinner to get a six-wicket haul on Test debut. He is the fourth South African captain to have claimed a Test five-wicket haul, joining the company of legendary Shaun Pollock, Trevor Goddard, and Eiulf Nupen (two times).