(From Left) David Warner, Kieron Pollard and Ravichandran Ashwin © Getty Images
(From Left) David Warner, Kieron Pollard and Ravichandran Ashwin © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

David Warner’s maiden Test hundred has brought fresh air into the Australian cricket machinery. Australia may have lost the second Test against New Zealand at Hobart after being in a position of strength, but Warner’s knock would give them belief and optimism for the future. For a player who was dubbed as a T20 specialist, the New South Welshman has broken the shackles and has proven the Doubting Thomases wrong.

 

Warner’s rise to the highest level was aided by brilliant and thrilling performances in T20 cricket. He broke into the Australian limited-overs squads and also secured a lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with the Delhi Daredevils. The sight of him going after the bowling from ball one gave the impression that he was yet another youngster who is made for the shorter versions particularly T20. When he raised his bat at Hobart it dispelled all those preconceived notions and highlighted his true ability.

 

The young Aussie is yet another cricketer, in the past few days, who has moved beyond his stereotype tag and performed in the longer versions. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was also dubbed as T20 material when he bowled tight, wicket-taking spells for the Chennai Super Kings. His elevation into the Indian one-day team came at the back of those good performances. When he was named in the Indian Test squad for the West Indies series, many people looked at the selection with suspicion but his man-of the series performance in his very first outing in the Indian whites was enough to prove his credentials.

 

Likewise, Kieron Pollard, the hard-hitting West Indian all-rounder has made his name as a slam-bang player in various T20 competitions around the world; scripted a thrilling One-Day International (ODI) hundred at Chennai. That knock highlighted the fact that there is more to his batting than just crazy slogging as he mixed his natural aggression with much needed caution.

 

The emergence of these players moving past the unwanted tags may have surprised many but there were signs in the past that indicated towards their utility in the longer versions. Ashwin’s showing for the Chennai Super Kings stole the limelight and pushed his first class record into oblivion. Playing for Tamil Nadu, Ashwin proved to be a fantastic asset as he picked wickets at a very healthy average. Even when he bowled in T20 games, one could see that his variations could be a handful in any format.

 

Coming to Warner, the fact that Virender Sehwag spotted his potential to play Test cricket much before he donned his first baggy green speaks volumes of his talent. Sehwag may have seen his younger days in Warner as he too wasn’t expected by many to do well in the classical format when he burst on to the scene.

 

Warner’s adjustment to the pace of the game is remarkable. He is a very clean striker of the ball and, like Sehwag, his hand-eye coordination is very good. Another Sehwag like ability in Warner is his attitude. There is hardly an opportunity he misses to score runs.

 

Prior to his Test debut, Warner had just 11 first-class games and had scored three hundreds, including an unbeaten double. Surely, the selectors realised the potential Sehwag envisioned and took the inspired call.

 

On the other hand, Pollard’s towering sixes thrill spectators and leave them in awe of his power. Through all that, hardly has anyone realized the fact that he plays with a very straight bat. During his knock at Chennai, he concentrated on playing in the ‘V’ which is the one of the most basic things a batsman is taught in his initial years.

 

His first-class record is pretty decent and boasts of a hundred on debut. The T20 lure has limited his first-class career to just 21 games in four years and he may have a lot more to offer in that format.

 

Similarly, Eoin Morgan and Shaun Marsh, who made their names in the shortest format are proving to be big assets to their Test sides. Morgan’s idiosyncratic batting has added the extra punch into the England batting and Marsh’s consistent run has ousted Ricky Ponting from his No 3 spot.

 

What it tells us is that T20 is becoming a mode of recognition for youngsters. With all the glamour and money coming into the game due to the new format, their performances at the first-class level or even their technical ability is being eclipsed.

 

In one of my earlier article written during the IPL season 4, I had discussed how the league was turning into a blessing for the domestic players of India. For example, Pragyan Ojha got noticed during the first season and today he is holding on to his spot in the Indian Test team. He was lucky not get stereotyped as his call-up came at the right time and saved him from the tag. Others such as Warner and Ashwin weren’t as lucky as they had to prove their talent and perform critic silencing acts along the way.

 

The three performances augur well for the respective teams and add immense value to those units. At the same time they sound a strong warning to cricket authorities, selectors and the armchair critics. In the future, it would be unfair to judge players by the amount of T20 cricket they play. Instead we must analyse their techniques and pick out fine points which may indicate their ability for the classical format. Ashwin, Warner and Pollard have proved that there is something beyond the numbers raked in T20 cricket.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)