The 2016/17 cricket season has been nothing short of sensational for the young Indian side. Pulling off a victory in the fourth Test against Australia at Dharamsala on a pitch that favoured the visitors more than the hosts, and that too after losing the toss, and their skipper Virat Kohli to injury, was the icing on the cake.
During this tremendous run, India have played three Tests against New Zealand, five against England, one against Bangladesh and four against Australia, winning 10 and losing only one Test, drawing two.
During this period, India has found some unlikely heroes, brilliant centuries, back-from-the-dead batting shows, dominating innings and sterling batting of the old conventional kind with a lot of hard grind.
Each of them has a significance and here, we look at the top five batting performances by Indians in this home season.
#5 Ravindra Jadeja – 90 v England, Mohali
Nothing would delight an Indian fan more than watching Ravindra Jadeja evolve over the last one year. Jadeja, who is one of only three players, along with Kapil Dev and Mitchell Johnson to register 500 runs and 50 wickets, scored some crucial runs lower down the order as well.
The best of them was against England in the third Test at Mohali when India was batting second. They were 204 for 6 after a middle order collapse, still trailing by 79 runs. Jadeja played excellent counter-attacking cricket, first adding 97 with Ravichandran Ashwin, who scored 72 runs, and then adding another 80 runs with Jayant Yadav, who scored 55.
India reached 417, and managed a lead of 134 runs and eventually won the match by 8 wickets, chasing down the target of 104 easily.
Jadeja’s knock also marked his maturity with the bat, where he moved from being a rash stroke-maker to someone who was able to grind down the opposition and wait for the right opportunity. He also played out 170 balls, the highest in that Indian innings.
#4 KL Rahul – 90 and 51 v Australia, Bengaluru
Rahul has come of age during this home season and he showed it by scoring six half-centuries in seven innings in a tightly contested Border-Gavaskar series. Rahul’s best performance, a Player of the Match winning one came on an extremely difficult pitch in Bengaluru.
India, batting first, were all out for 189, Rahul scoring 90 of those runs. The next highest Indian score was Karun Nair’s 26 runs. Rahul was the ninth wicket to fall when he threw away his wicket in search of quick, selfless runs.
He seemed to be batting on a different strip and was destined to score a century and carry his bat.
Australia scored 276 and gained a valuable lead of 87.
In the second innings, Rahul scored another half-century, giving India a decent start which was built further by a knock of 92 from Pujara’s bat, an innings that just missed out of this list.
The 118-run partnership between Pujara and Rahane was the defining moment of a series that looked like it was heading Australia’s way. Nevertheless, Rahul scored more runs on that track than anyone, helping India win a close game and level the series.
#3 Karun Nair – 303* v England, Chennai
Nair is not one of India’s first choice top-order batsmen. Nevertheless, after a couple of bad starts, he showed his batting prowess on a good batting strip against England. In the fifth Test against the visitors, India were once again under pressure having conceded 477.
Nair walked in at 211 for 3 and added 161 with Rahul, who missed out on a double ton. However, Nair continued to pile on the runs, turning his maiden ton into a triple. The 381-ball triple century is also one of the top five triple centuries of all time as he helped India reach 759 for 7, its highest score in Test cricket.
As a result, England had more than a day to survive, and despite the Chepauk offering a flat pitch, the English batsmen capitulated to give India an excellent win.
It is also a record for the highest first innings score (477) in an innings defeat as India won by a whopping margin of innings and 75 runs. Although Nair hasn’t been able to replicate that success, his 565-minute unbeaten knock made him only India’s second triple centurion.
#2 Cheteshwar Pujara – 202 v Australia, Ranchi
Pujara’s 672-minute vigil, where he played out 525 balls against a high-quality Australian bowling attack, and adding a record-breaking 199 runs for the seventh wicket with Wriddhiman Saha in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar series is a testimony of his grit, temperament and endurance.
Although there was some criticism for his slow scoring that pushed the Indian declaration further, one needs to understand that Pujara’s toil and slow scoring was largely because India was one batsman short and he was the last man standing. Australia had batted first and scored 451, an excellent score after having won the toss.
India were in more than a spot of bother at 328 for 6, still trailing by 123 runs on a pitch where batting last could’ve been tricky.
Pujara’s double ton ensured India piled on 603 as he batted out session after session to exacerbate the Australian agony, giving India a healthy lead of 152 runs. Although the match ended in a draw, the Saurashtra batsman prevented Australia from geting away with the match.
#1 Virat Kohli – 235 v England, Wankhede, Mumbai
This season has seen several tons from the bat of Virat Kohli, even as he became the first batsman in the history of the game to score double centuries in four successive Test series. However, this double century in the third Test against England on a tough pitch in adverse conditions takes the cake.
England posted a sizable 400 after batting first and in reply, India went through a mini middle-order collapse that saw them being reduced to 307 for 6 still behind by 93 runs. In fine counter-attacking cricket, Kohli added 57 with Ravindra Jadeja for the seventh wicket and a record-shattering 241 for the eighth wicket with Jayant Yadav pushing the score eventually to 631.
In his 515-minute vigil, Kohli hit just one six, showing supreme control and a sense of responsibility. The double ton was not on a lifeless track but one that was doing something while he had to contend with two spinners in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, and quality seam bowling from four pacers – Anderson, Woakes, Stokes and Ball.
The innings broke the back of England as they stooped to an innings defeat, a rare case of a team scoring 400 batting first and still losing by an innings.