Back in the month of February, an all-rounder called Saurabh Kumar received his maiden call-up for the Sri Lanka Tests. For the unversed, it was an eye-popping selection as he was a lesser-known individual in the pool of big stars. Since the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Axar Patel were already there, the new entrant found himself down in the pecking order and eventually, ended up warming the bench in the 2-match series.
Though Saurabh didn’t get a game, his selection in the squad had already put the focus-light on him. He returned to the basics – domestic cricket – and kept following the process until he carved his way back to the Indian side, and this time he’s set to replace Jadeja, who hasn’t recovered from the knee injury, for the Bangladesh tour.
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On Sunday, the BCCI confirmed that Saurabh will be sharing the dressing room with the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the upcoming 2-match Test series. He is already in Bangladesh with the India A side and his performance has begun speaking about his caliber. Spinning a vicious web around the home batters, Saurabh ended the 2-match series as the highest wicket-taker with 15 scalps, including a couple of 5-wicket hauls. He even scored a half-century in the second game, putting a strong case for his selection as Jadeja’s replacement.
Saurabh’s rapid rise in domestic cricket forced the selectors to have a look at him. He has 237 wickets and 1776 runs to his credit in just 56 first-class games. What impresses one and all is his knack for picking wickets in bulk. He has 11 four-wicket hauls, 17 five-wicket hauls and six 10-wicket hauls already the way he is currently bowling in Bangladesh, he will definitely push the Indian team management into a dilemma before picking the playing XI in the Test series.
Former India international and ex-Uttar Pradesh coach Vijay Dahiya reserved huge praise for the 29-year-old. In an exclusive interaction with News18 Cricketnext, the former wicketkeeper-batter said Saurabh rightfully deserves to be there.
“It’s a very good selection. How do you get selected? On the basis of performance, consistency, and all against a good side. If you look at his numbers, they have been phenomenal in the last couple of years and he’s getting rewarded for that. He has performed against the top sides. We often say this player has scored hundreds of runs or that player has taken these many wickets. But when it comes to selection and starting the comparison, you see against whom and where. When you see those things, Saurabh’s performance will always be top-class,” Dahiya told News18 Cricketnext.
“He has taken wickets that have mattered the most. His performance, in that sense, is phenomenal. As a spinner, playing for a state which has quite a bit of fast bowlers, among them being so consistent for the last couple of years; he absolutely deserves this,” he added.
Saurabh’s passion for cricket landed him a government job, that too, in the Indian Air Force. But his strong will to play for India someday required him to carve a separate way for himself. He parted ways with the Services team and toiled hard to get into the Uttar Pradesh dressing room. And now, getting an India Test cap is all he wants.
But even if Saurabh gets a game in Bangladesh, what happens when Jadeja gains fitness and returns? Also, the team already has another terrific left-armer in Axar Patel whose figures in home Tests are simply astonishing.
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Well, the competition is indeed stiff but according to Dahiya, here’s how the all-rounder can manage to remain on the radar of the selectors.
“The competition is getting tougher with every day. Not just getting into the Indian side but to India A side as well. So, you need to be absolutely on your game and whatever opportunity you get, you have to make them count.
“The unfortunate part for some of the players is that there were no shadow tours due to Covid. So now, even if you are not able for India, hold on to your place in the India A side based on your performance. So, whenever a player is out of form in the Indian side and there is an opportunity, you should be ready to grab that,” Dahiya concluded.
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