MUMBAI (Reuters) - The emergence of youngsters Lokesh Rahul and Karun Nair will increase the pressure on India’s established batsmen to be more consistent as the world’s top-ranked test side look to dominate next year.
Under captain Virat Kohli, India have been unbeaten in the last 18 tests, registering series wins in Sri Lanka and West Indies, and thumping South Africa, New Zealand and England at home.
Halfway through a bumper home series of 13 tests, with a lone match against Bangladesh and a four-game series against Australia remaining, Kohli’s grand dream of creating one of cricket’s all-time best teams is taking shape.
The 24-year-old Rahul cemented his position as India’s first-choice opener alongside Murali Vijay with a 199 in Chennai, his fourth test hundred in 12 matches.
Doubts were raised after scores of nought, 10 and 24 but the knock at the MA Chidambaram Stadium answered all his critics and ensured left-hander Shikhar Dhawan will be India’s reserve opener when the hosts pick the squad for the next test.
It will also be a pleasant headache for the team management when regular middle-order batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma return from injury for the matches against Bangladesh and Australia in February and March.
Nair, 25, did not have a great start to his test career, scoring four and 13 in Mohali and Mumbai before compiling a stunning unbeaten 303 in Chennai.
“It’s difficult to find guys like that, which have such character when they are batting and understand their game so well at such a young age,” Kohli told reporters after his side completed a 4-0 drubbing of England in Chennai.
“It’s important to back guys like Karun. We’ve always believed. He was always our number one choice as a middle-order back-up.”
Rohit scored three half-centuries, two unbeaten, against New Zealand in the three tests before his thigh injury while Rahane, India’s vice-captain, broke his finger after scoring 63 in five innings against England.
Kohli has warned opponents that this is only the beginning for his young side.
“To be part of such a good year and such a good season, especially with the team in transition, is something we can be really proud of,” Kohli said.
”But this is just the foundation that’s been laid for us to carry on for many years. It’s just the beginning.
“It’s nothing (compared to what) we want to achieve. It’s not even a tiny bit of that. We understand where we want to go, and hopefully the guys can keep putting this kind of effort and take the team where it belongs.”
Editing by Ed Osmond