The Tamil Nadu bowling duo of Washington Sundar and T. Natarajan are all set to make their Test debut on Friday as India goes up against Australia in the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.
India, with its ever-growing list of injury concerns hadn’t settled in on a Playing XI until Thursday.
Batting coach Vikram Rathour, while addressing the media, had said, “The injuries are still being monitored. Our medical staff is looking into them. They are working with all the players. So, I won’t be in a position to comment on how it stands at the moment. We would like to give them as much time as we can.”
Having lost the toss in Brisbane, skipper Ajinkya Rahane announced Shardul Thakur, Mayank Agarwal, Natarajan, and Washington will replace Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, and Hanuma Vihari.
With that, India has now used 19 players in this series, which is the most by the team in a series since 1961-62.
Natarajan, India’s 300th Test cricketer, was handed the cap by bowling coach Bharat Arun. It was expected either Thakur or Natarajan will come in for the injured Bumrah if the think-tank decides against risking the pace spearhead. But both of them have made the final eleven owing to the added bounce that the Gabba seems to offer to the pacers.
While Shardul has greater international experience, Natarajan provides the pace attack with an additional dimension – the left-armer’s angle. The last left-arm seamer to feature in a Test for India was Zaheer Khan in Wellington in 2013-14.
IPL 2020 was a game-changer for Natarajan as he put his foot on the accelerator for Sunrisers Hyderabad. The 29-year-old from Salem bowled with a pace of around 130-135 kmph and additionally, gained popularity as a ‘yorker specialist’ because of his ability to trouble batsmen with unplayable toe crushers at will. Under the mentorship of India legend VVS Laxman, he went on to claim 16 wickets in the league.
“Natarajan is a hard working cricketer who never missed a training session and is always wanting to work on his skills to be a much better bowler every day. He has been doing really well in the TNPL, he was part of Kings XI Punjab, he did well consistently for Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy,” Laxman had earlier told Sportstar in an interview.
Natarajan comprehends his release point extremely well – a trait he learnt while playing tennis-ball cricket.
Ashwin, meanwhile, welcomed Washington to the side. The 21-year-old, like Natarajan, stayed back with the Indian team as a net bowler in Australia following the limited-over series. His work ethics, ability, and a spate of injuries in the Indian camp has opened the path for him in Test cricket.
Washington could provide the balance to the line-up in the absence of Jadeja. He could bat usefully – he has this languid elegance about him – and bowl his off-spinners with control.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant (w), Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, T Natarajan