Brimming with confidence after a successful outing at the Indian Premier League, Team India was expected to continue their dominant run in world cricket when they arrived in Down Under for unarguably the most-awaited series of the year – India vs Australia. But as the limited-overs leg of the tour wrapped, the visiting team was already dealing with a few injury blows that hampered their run in the Trans-Tasmanian nation. The four-match Test series – Border-Gavaskar trophy – was the final nail in the coffin as the injury list multiplied as the tourney progressed.

With regular captain Virat Kohli leaving the tour midway – due to paternity leave – after the first Test in Adelaide, the onus rested on the shoulders of other senior stars in the Indian camp. But, destiny had some other plans as the likes of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and KL Rahul – all suffered various injuries and failed to play all the matches. The scale of injuries can be gauged from the fact that India has played with 20 members of the squad in the ongoing series, something which has never happened before. ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’ – this quote worked wonders for some young and talented Indian cricketers in the current series as they grabbed the chance with both hands in the absence of some regular players.

In this piece, we take a brief look at five Indian cricket team players who made their Test debuts Down Under against the ‘mighty Australia’.

Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill plays a cover drive BCCI

After a couple of impressive knocks in the warm-up games, Shubman Gill replaced out-of-form Prithvi Shaw as the opener for the Boxing Day Test. What followed was history! Gill not only sealed the spot but also played crucial role in scripting an eight-wicket series-leveling win for India in Melbourne. He aggregated 80 runs with the bat. In the third Test in Sydney, the 21-year-old scored his maiden half-century in Test cricket on a lively wicket. Several former and current stars praised Gill for showing great temperament and skill while playing at the big stage. So far in all four innings, the Punjab-born batsman has provided India starts and made good contributions with the bat. He has scored nearly 2500 runs in First-class cricket and boasts of an impressive 67.52 average. Gill has scored seven hundreds and 12 fifties in 25 FC games.

Mohammed Siraj

Mohammed Siraj congratulated by India teammates after picking up first five-for vs Australia in Brisbane ICC

The toast of the nation at the moment – Mohammed Siraj also made his debut in the ongoing series versus Australia. The absence of an experience pace bowling stalwart like Shami gave a chance to Siraj to prove his worth in the whites. The 26-year-old made his Test debut at the iconic MCG and instantly left an impression with the wickets of Australia batting star – Marnus Labuschagne and all-rounder Cameron Green. He picked up five wickets in the Boxing Day Test and played important role in Team India’s win. However, for Siraj, the turning point came in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane. Siraj had to lead an inexperience Indian bowling attack that was missing the likes of Bumrah, Ashwin and Jadeja. And, the Hyderabad-born pacer did that with aplomb. In the second innings of the Gabba Test, Siraj picked up his maiden five-for in Test cricket to give India a chance of an improbable series win.

Navdeep Saini

Navdeep Saini in action BCCI

Added to India’s playing XI after an injury to Umesh Yadav, Saini made a fine start to his Test career with four wickets in his first match in Sydney. Known for his express pace and probing length, Saini has often garnered attention in the cricketing fraternity. In his First-class career, the 28-year-old pacer has 132 wickets in 47 matches at an average of 28.50.

Washington Sundar

Washington Sundar in action during fourth Test vs Australia in Brisbane BCCI

Another impressive debutant on the tour – Washington Sundar’s success story also made a few headlines. Replacing an experienced bowler like Ashwin, Sundar had a massive role to play as the spinner in Team India’s XI for the Brisbane Test. And, the 21-year-old did a fantastic job as he not only picked wickets but also made a telling contribution with the bat to keep India alive in the contest versus Australia. Sundar dismissed a well-set Steve Smith in the hosts’ first innings to pick up his maiden Test scalp. His knock of 62 and a 123-run stand with Shardul Thakur helped the visitors cross the 300-mark and lessen the gap.

T Natarajan

Natarajan performs crunches during India’s practice session BCCI

Left-arm pacer Thangasaru Natarajan scripted history on Friday after making his Test debut for India at The Gabba, Brisbane. Arrived in Australia as a net bowler, the Tamil Nadu cricketer became the first Indian cricketer to make his international debut across all three formats during the same tour. Natarajan was one of the rookies who was named in India’s playing XI for the final Test in Brisbane. He also became the 300th player to represent India in the longest format of the game. He made an immediate impact on the field by taking three crucial wickets in Australia’s first innings he dismissed Matthew Wade, Marnus Labushchagne and Josh Hazlewood.