Test cricket needed India’s ‘fantastic’ Jaiswal and England’s Bazball

Former England captain Mike Gatting heaps praise on India and England’s approach ahead of fourth Test in Ranchi.

Yashasvi Jaiswal
India's Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates after reaching his double century in the third Test [Amit Dave/Reuters]

India and England have been backed to keep playing the “magnificent” brand of cricket that has lit up the series despite criticism from some parts.

The teams face each other in the fourth Test in Ranchi on Friday with the hosts leading the five-Test series 2-1.

England suffered their largest defeat in terms of runs, 434, in the third Test as Indian opener Yashasvi Jaiswal turned the tables on “Bazball” with a rapid double century that equalled Wasim Akram’s record of 12 sixes in a Test innings.

“When you see Jaiswal playing like he did that was fantastic,” former England captain Mike Gatting told Al Jazeera.

“To get 200 as quickly as he did and play the way he did – a young kid – was incredible.

“He reminds me of a young Mohammad Azharuddin, who came in and got three hundreds in his first three Tests against England.”

‘It’s exactly what Test cricket needed’

Jaiswal, 22, also hit 209 in the second Test in Visakhapatnam, but his unbeaten 214 came off just 236 deliveries in Rajkot.

“The injection of something different into Test cricket has been magnificent and you have to take your hats off to the young players of this day and age,” Gatting added.

“The thing they have introduced is a little bit of risk, but also a wonderful spectacle for the spectators when they decide to up a gear, which they are capable of doing.

“They have the ability, they have the basis of their cricket like the foundation of a house, and they can give expansive iterations of the game, as well.”

England’s dynamic approach to the game under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes has revolutionised the team following the despair of a series defeat in West Indies in 2022, which led to the changes at the top.

The slump in the third Test led to criticism resurfacing of the aggressive style of play adopted since Joe Root was replaced as captain.

“Test Cricket needed an injection and the way Ben and Brendan have gone about it has been very radical in a lot of people’s eyes but they have had those players of quality and I can’t stress that enough,” Gatting said.

“You have to have a huge amount of ability to play at that level and do what they are doing, playing the shots they are.

“It’s exactly what Test cricket needed.

“It’s been a melding of T20 and Tests and it’s proved brilliant and produced some wonderful Test cricket.”

Gatting, 66, was England’s captain between 1986 and 1988 and was himself criticised for a reverse sweep in the 1987 World Cup final defeat by Australia, so he knows exactly what those players facing criticism of their shot selection now are going through.

“It produces some interesting comments when people play certain shots,” he said. “People didn’t realise I’d played the reverse sweep all the way through the tournament and were saying, ‘If you play that shot against you won’t be playing for England again’.

“The game hasn’t changed – if you get out to a poor shot people want to know about it. Poor shots nowadays include it a reverse sweep, scoop or whatever.

“I don’t believe the players don’t know what is needed at certain times. They do. It’s just about balancing it out and people criticise because they are not used to it.”

‘Test cricket has changed’

Gatting pointed to the approach of the great Australia team of the 1990s, who themselves were seen as radical in their attempt to score a four runs per over in Test cricket.

“If you watch the way Michael Slater, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and all those guys played in the 90s, it’s nothing new,” he said. “It’s just the way that more people want to play now.

“Test cricket has changed because there is a whole team now focused on doing it. There were a lot of players around before: Viv Richard, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Hayes – they weren’t messing around.

“So it’s been there, it’s nothing particularly new.”

Crucially, Gatting believed, the England players are now being given the backing “mentally” to express themselves in a way that has been restrictive before.

With Stoke and McCullum in charge though, fear has been removed from the players’ mindsets.

“The captain and coach want to give people the ability to be themselves, we want you to be what you want to be and that’s what we’ve picked you for,” Gatting said.

“When you are playing at that level under that pressure it’s nice to have that support knowing that it’s not a case of: ‘If I get out then I won’t be in the team again’.

“Joe Root is an interesting one – some will say: ‘Does he have to do that?’ Would you say: ‘Did Viv Richards have to put his foot down outside off stump and hit it over midwicket?’ but he did it regularly and did it well.

“It’s about picking the right shot at the right time and if you get it wrong you’ll be criticised – be it a reverse sweep or a drive caught at slip.”

The five-match series concludes in Dharamshala in March, and then the focus will turn to the Indian Premier League, which, in turn, is quickly followed by the 2024 T20 World Cup.

It is understood that the BCCI, who run the IPL, have written to their players reminding them of the importance of both the domestic game in India and Test cricket.

This is something Gatting was particularly eager to praise, “What was even more enjoyable was hearing Jay Shah of the BCCI has told these young kids, ‘Don’t worry about IPL yet get your basis in cricket first – get into Test cricket and then you can play that a little bit later on.’

“The message was: ‘Don’t think you can go straight into IPL and not play for India’ – that was quite interesting.”

Source: Al Jazeera