Jayant Yadav scored 35 in first innings on his debut Test    AFP
Jayant Yadav scored 35 in the first innings on his debut Test AFP

Amit Mishra s fans were not happy. Mishra had toiled hard, very hard in the first Test against England at Rajkot, but could not break through until late in the Test. India were put under pressure. The axe fell on Mishra, for he was always the third spinner of the troika. Virat Kohli drafted in Jayant Yadav, an off-spinner nobody barring ardent fans of Indian cricket knew of till the fifth ODI against New Zealand at Visakhapatnam. Making his debut, Jayant had faced one ball, scored one run, held one catch, and taken one wicket as India one won the match with ease. LIVE Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 2nd Test at Vizag

Ironically, Mishra had run through New Zealand in that match with 5 for 18. He was named Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series. More ironically (if that is a phrase) the ODI was played at Visakhapatnam, venue of the ongoing Test (as well as one of Kohli s most favourite onsite locations). Quite a few eyebrows were raised at Mishra s omission, more so because Mishra is also handy with bat: he has 4 Test fifties, has batted above Ravichandran Ashwin multiple times last year, and has a First-Class double-hundred.

Jayant has done none of the first two, for this is his first Test. However, he has checked the third box. I know everyone is aware of the fact by now, but Mishra and Jayant got their double tons in the same innings. Haryana had ambled to 168 for 7 against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match four years back when Jayant joined Mishra, his captain. They added 392; Jayant scoring 211 and Mishra remaining unbeaten on 201. Only one pair has put up a bigger partnership for the eighth wicket, and one of the two men involved was Victor Trumper. You get the picture.

Kohli won the toss, which meant that Jayant would bowl later in the match; and though he will bowl, chances are high that he will be the third of three spinners, and will get significantly less overs than Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

But that will be some time away. This is about his batting. Jayant is not a tail-ender. Picture this. You are a debutant. You have replaced your (sometimes) Ranji Trophy captain. Your captain has fallen to Moeen Ali, the man who had bothered India in 2014. Wriddhiman Saha was gone less than 4 overs after Kohli; two balls later you find yourself crossing Ravindra Jadeja on your way out to the crease.

Three quick wickets for Moeen Ali, and suddenly you are out there. Five overs back, when Kohli was out there, you were probably considering an afternoon tea. Now you are out there, against Moeen.

That was precisely the situation when Jayant Yadav took his first strides on a cricket field in national whites. He was off two balls later, pushing Moeen through cover.

Moeen, shrewd as ever, tossed one up after Ashwin played out a maiden to Adil Rashid. Jayant blocked. The next ball was flat. Flight. Flat. Moeen was at the old-fashioned cat-and-mouse game, luring Jayant to believe that he was bowling to a pattern.

Then he ripped one through. But Jayant, vigilant Jayant, read it well and blocked it. And a Test batsman was born.

The first boundary came when Moeen dropped one ever so slightly short. The footwork was too clinical for a No. 9. The placement past mid-wicket was immaculate. Suddenly Rajkot woke up to take notice. The Indian innings was not going to end anytime soon. The tail did not start with Jayant.

On came Rashid. Jayant played for the non-existent turn. The ball hit the pad. There was a loud appeal. The next ball took his inside edge but fell short of little Haseeb Hameed. Rashid made one dip. Jayant watched. You could sense he was gaining in confidence against leg-spin.

Unfortunately, he committed himself too early for the next ball. The initial footwork was hasty, probably predetermined. The ball pitched shorter but came slow off the pitch. Jayant waited, adjusted, and late-cut it to the fence.

No tail-ender can play that.

On they came, the inseparable pair of Ben Stokes and short-pitched balls. Stokes bounced. Jayant did not duck. Jayant did not flinch. Jayant did not pull. Jayant did not hook. Jayant did not glove. Jayant simply came inside the line of the ball, dropped his batting hand and let the ball go to Jonny Bairstow.

Where did that come from?

Stokes tried the double-bluff, but Jayant blocked him on front-foot. Stokes bounced again. Jayant dropped the hand again. Stokes pitched up again. Sucked into the drive, Jayant edged, and the ball raced past slip to the fence.

Stokes bounced again. This time it was too quick for Jayant. It hit his bat, but by then Jayant had taken his right hand off it. The ball dropped harmlessly. Stokes went for the reverse. Jayant left it comfortably. And then came the on-drive, almost regal, and he and Umesh Yadav ran frantically…

Moeen and Rashid pitched up. Stokes blocked. They dropped short. Jayant pulled. Jayant raced up the ladder. By the time top-edged a slog-sweep off Rashid, he had got to 35, off 84 balls. Of Indian No. 9s, only Amar Singh (51) has a higher score on debut against England, back in 1932, in India s first Test. And Amar Singh got them in his second innings.

It was not an outstanding innings. It will probably not be remembered for a long time either. The innings, however, shows glimpses of what Jayant is capable of. He can bat, he can handle bounce with a brave technique; he can smother spin on a pitch that has started to take turn.

Most importantly, Jayant Yadav thinks. He thinks before every ball is bowled, and it shows. He may not make it big as a batsman, but lack of application will never be a reason behind that.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry. He blogs at ovshake.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter @ovshake42.)