India vs Australia: Karun Nair may have to play second fiddle for now but he has a bright future ahead
Karun Nair may have to play second fiddle for a while, but this could go a long way in ensuring that he has a bright future in the Indian cricket team.
There have been just 26 triple centurions in the history of Test cricket, but only two of those hail from India. The cricket-crazy nation had to wait until 2004 to get it's first triple centurion, 64 years after the feat was first achieved.
England had two triple centurions by 1933, Australia had two by 1964, West Indies by 1974 and Pakistan by 2002. India's turn to enter this list came in 2016. For a country that has produced one batting great after another, this landmark came rather late and from an unlikely source.
Karun Nair was the man to join Virender Sehwag in the 300 club, who till that point was the only Indian to score a triple hundred. An unbeaten 303 from the Karnataka batsman brought the Indian cricketing fraternity to a standstill. Nobody saw it coming and you can't blame them as Nair had scored just 17 runs in international cricket prior to that.
The man who was taking his baby steps in the game left a gigantic foot mark with this feat. It was a pity that the triple ton came in the last Test match of that series, and India were a few months away from it's next. Nair had to wait to script the next chapter of his brief yet noteworthy career.
But with India being the land of great batters, sometimes even triple centuries aren't enough to earn you a place in the main XI. Quite unimaginable elsewhere, but Nair had to be content with a place outside the XI, when India took on Bangladesh in an one-off Test match recently.
Ajinkya Rahane was back fit, and with the backing of Virat Kohli, went straight into the team. One can't blame Kohli too, the man he picked ahead of Nair had a test average of 47.64 and had eight hundreds to his name. The Indian captain also made it clear that Rahane was ahead in the pecking order, and the Mumbai batsman obliged back with a crucial 82 in the first innings of that game.
What it means that Rahane's place in the Indian main XI for the first Test against Australia seems cemented. So once again, India will have a triple centurion in reserve to call upon, if things don't work out as expected with the bat.
Rahane, who has battled injury and poor form to claim his place in the Indian side, will have his work cut out, especially with Nair breathing down his neck. The Karnataka batsman has more to him than just his triple hundred. He also boasts an average of 53.67 in First-Class cricket. So, the 28-year-old Rahane will have to produce a certain level of performance to keep Nair's growing repute at bay.
While it might be slightly unfair on the youngster, it could work wonders for India. Rahane will have to perform to repay his captain's backing and keep his place in the side. He would know that a series of failures could see him relegated to the reserves, and that could just be the incentive that makes him get perform at his very best.
The technically-sound Rahane is an asset to the team when in full flow, especially in the longest format. India's recent struggles in that position before Nair's heroics in Chennai, were often swept under the carpet by an over-performing lower order. So Rahane will play a crucial role. If he can get into the groove, the hosts will have an almost flawless battling department.
So for Nair, his achievements could actually work against him if it fires up an out-of-form Rahane. He may have to remain on the sidelines if that turns out to be the case and his own good work in the past would have played a big part in it.
While Nair's presence may increase the heat on Rahane, it would prevent Kohli from having sleepless nights. He would breathe a lot easier with Nair being there to fall back on, in case of an injury to some of his top batsmen, apart from an added quality option if he wants to change his initial strategy.
The Karnataka batsman, on the other hand, need not be disappointed. At 25, there is still plenty of time ahead of him and he need not look any further than Wriddhiman Saha, for players who had to wait for their chance to make an impact.
Nair has already made a difference and he may not have to wait as long as perhaps Saha had to. Meanwhile, he can further soak in the atmosphere of the Indian dressing room and pick up valuable experience by being in the vicinity of some of the best in the game right now. He may not get a chance to show off his skills in the upcoming Test series, but he can certainly sharpen it, learning from the likes of Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and even Rahane.
Who knows, if India take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, Nair may get a chance to make a big impact in another final Test match of a series. It may not be all that bad for him eventually — to learn and grow during the first three games and then put it on display in the fourth.
Nair is certainly one for the future, and while he may have to play second fiddle for now, it could go a long way in ensuring that he has a bright future in the Indian cricket team.
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