Tale of vastly contrasting debuts

Tale of vastly contrasting debuts

Yadav, the express paceman from Vidarbha, finished with none for 48 from 16 overs, not necessarily the worst figures but by no means indicative of his travails. Off-spinner Ashwin, hitherto a limited-overs specialist, had a much better debut, picking up the scalps of Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels on his way to two for 79 from 25 overs.

Ashwin could have been excused for feeling the pressure of expectations, given that he was replacing 98-Test veteran Harbhajan Singh in the playing eleven. The 25-year-old from Chennai, however, is an ice-cool customer and showed few signs of nerves, wheeling away with the confidence of 34 first-class matches behind him and posing numerous difficult questions to even a seasoned campaigner like Shivnarine Chanderpaul on an unhelpful day one track.

“He was very good,” Chanderpaul said, then added Pragyan Ojha too in that bracket. “They both are very good. It is a slow pitch but they are very good.” Ashwin is an expert practitioner of the carrom ball, but he didn’t use it on more than a couple of occasions, relying on the stock off-break and occasionally throwing in the straighter floater flicked with two fingers that skids through on pitching. It was one such delivery that accounted for Samuels.

There were periods when Ashwin kept straying on to leg stump and was picked away for singles, especially during an end-change second spell of 5-0-27-0, but by and large, he didn’t look out of place.

Yadav’s was a slightly less successful debut, though he did work up serious pace even off the sluggish deck. His first spell held a lot of promise and he went flat out, troubling the right-handed Kraigg Brathwaite but losing rhythm, poise and control against the left-handed Kieran Powell. As the day progressed, though, he became increasingly ragged, straying in length and direction and giving his wicketkeeper-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni a hard time scrambling to stop the wayward offerings.

Yadav, of course, is far from a polished gem, and it didn’t help that Ishant Sharma too was off-colour, but the potential was hard to miss, a fact acknowledged even by Chanderpaul. “He bowls well with lots of pace. It was hot out there, there not much help in the wicket,” the centurion pointed out. “He was very good.”

Both men will be better off for their first taste of Test cricket. How they build on their starts will determine how long, and successfully, they play the longer version.