India’s hike to the summit of the World Test Championship was built around a core group of players who excelled over the length of two years, but left in its wake a few men who made only a brief appearance in the campaign.
As India battles New Zealand (and rain) to try and win the inaugural World Test Championship, we look back at Indian players whose contributions weren’t as impactful as the rest, but still participated in the side’s rise to the top of the table. These aren’t necessarily players who featured in the least number of games, although only Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan played fewer or equal games than the players mentioned here, both having a far more memorable impact.
1 Test, 2 wickets @ 20.50, BBI: 2-25
It’s been a downward graph for Kuldeep’s Test career ever since the WTC cycle started, with India solely relying on their spin megastars to tweak them to victories. The duopoly has left Kuldeep in the wilderness, and it was just the one consolatory appearance (against England this year) that the wrist-spinner could manage in two whole years. It didn’t help that his white-ball career also struggled to stay afloat at the same time, and he’s fallen well behind in the race since.
2 Tests, 101 runs @ 25.25, HS: 44
The perennial reserve player of the WTC cycle, Rahul remained on the sidelines more than any other member of the side, spending more time with the support staff and energy drinks than in the middle. Rahul’s only playing contribution came in the first half of the cycle when he played two Tests in the Caribbean. There was hardly anything of note, and the talented batsman was left out after a painful 63-ball six in the Kingston Test in August 2019.
2 Tests, 4 wickets @ 43.00, BBI: 2-54
Saini’s inclusion for the Australia tour was an indication of the management’s inclination to infuse fresh blood in the pace attack, but the Saini experiment stopped abruptly when a groin injury and inconsistent form came in the way. Saini was a silent participant on the Australia Test tour, picking just four wickets in two Tests, but will be remembered for fighting through injury to send down crucial overs in Brisbane.
2 Tests, 8 wickets @ 34.12, BBI: 2-18
You’d probably remember that Shahbaz Nadeem played in the WTC only because it was he was part of India’s recent-most series. Called upon the merit of being a bankable left-arm spinner in Ravindra Jadeja’s absence, Nadeem couldn’t get going against England, picking up four wickets after long spells of toil. Before that, he made a one-off appearance in the Ranchi Test against South Africa in 2019, where he picked four wickets as well.
3 Tests, 102 runs @ 17.00, 1 fifty, HS: 54
Don’t let the Adelaide Test be your only memory of Shaw in the Test Championship; pre-pandemic, he travelled to New Zealand with the team and made a fine half-century in tricky circumstances. If it wasn’t for the painful twin dismissals against Australia, Gill’s entry would have been delayed, and Shaw could have possibly played a bigger part in India’s WTC journey. Instead, he’s fallen quite behind in the pecking order and will have to work hard to get into Test contention again.