‘Only those who have hunger to play Tests…’: Rohit takes veiled dig at Shreyas, Ishan after India win Ranchi Test

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RANCHI: Relieved after India aced a nervy chase to post a series-clinching win over England in Ranchi, skipper Rohit Sharma, took a veiled swipe at Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan, who are in the crosshairs of the BCCI over their alleged unwillingness to play for their state teams in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.

Addressing the post-match press conference in the Jharkhand capital on Monday, Rohit said only players, who have the ‘hunger’ to succeed in Test cricket, will be given a chance to feature in the longest format for the country.

Youngsters Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel’s remarkable efforts with the bat took the hosts across the finishing line, helping the hosts clinch a five-wicket victory in the fourth Test against England on Monday.

Following the win, Rohit made it clear that there is no dearth of players who are not hungry to don the whites for their nation, adding that it was pointless to play players, who do not have the hunger to play Test cricket.

Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer have skipped Ranji Trophy matches in recent weeks despite not featuring for the national team.

Kishan was in the Indian squad for the South Africa Test series squad last year but pulled out due to ‘personal reasons’. He last played a T20I for India in November last year, sitting out Ranji matches featuring Jharkhand.

Iyer, on the other hand, has been battling poor form in Tests in the recent past, with disappointing outings in South Africa and at home against England in the first two Tests of the ongoing five-match series. He was, however, left out of the squad for the third and fourth Tests and also withdrew from Mumbai’s Ranji quarterfinal against Baroda due to back issues.

Both these players will, however, be playing in the DY Patil T20 Cup tournament to prepare for the Indian Premier League (IPL). Both are top players for their respective IPL franchises–Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders.

“This [Test cricket] is the toughest format,” Rohit was quoted as ESPNCricinfo.

“And if you want success and want to excel in this tough format, then you need that hunger. It is very important. We will give opportunities only to players who have that hunger. You come to know [easily] the players who do not have that hunger, [or] players who do not want to stay here and play this format. We come to know that,” the India skipper said.

“Players who have that hunger, players who want to stay here and perform [and] play in tough conditions, we will give preference to them. Obviously, it is pretty simple: if you do not have hunger, there is no meaning in playing such players,” he added.

A prolific scorer across domestic tournaments for Mumbai, especially the Ranji Trophy, young Sarfaraz Khan made no secret of his desire to don the Test whites for India but had to endure a prolonged wait to earn his India cap. After piling up daddy hundreds for Mumbai and scoring heavily in the practice games against England ahead of the Test series, the 26-year-old made his Test debut at the third Test in Rajkot.

Rohit said there are plenty of players who are hungry to play Tests despite not being in the India squad.

The skipper noted that Test caps do not come in plenty and chances must be utilised well, adding that though the IPL is good, Test cricket remains the most difficult format. In the absence of senior players like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Mohammed Shami etc, youngsters such as Yashasvi Jaiswal, Dhruv Jurel, Sarfaraz Khan, and Akash Deep rose to the occasion and made their mark in the series.

“At present, I do not see anyone who doesn’t have that hunger: those who are here in the squad and even those who are not here–every one of them wants to play. But the opportunities at this level come very rarely. If you do not utilise that opportunity, then you lose that chance. We have all experienced that. So those players who utilise the opportunities, who make the team win, who perform for the team–obviously, that is noted. That is very important,” he said.

“IPL is for us, no doubt, a good format. But Test cricket is the most difficult format: to achieve success and perform here is not so easy. We have seen in these four Tests we have played, the three wins we got were not easy. We had to work hard, batsmen had to spend ample time in the middle, and bowlers had to deliver longer spells. So this is a format that involves hard work,” he signed off saying.

In what was a must-win Test, England chose to bat first after winning the toss and closed their first innings at 353, riding majorly on a fine comeback century by premier batter and former skipper Joe Root (122* in 274 balls, 10 fours), a half-century from Ollie Robinson (58 in 96 balls, with nine fours and a six) and Ben Foakes (47 in 126 balls, with four boundaries and a six).

Ravindra Jadeja (4/67) and Akash Deep (3/83) were the pick of the bowlers for India.

India were bundled out for 307 in their first innings in reply to England’s 353. Despite Yashasvi Jaiswal (73 in 117 balls, with eight fours and a six) firing once again, India were reduced to 219/7 before Jurel (90 in 149 balls, with six fours and four sixes) joined forces with Kuldeep (28 in 131 balls) to stitch a 76-run stand for the eighth wicket and drag India past the 300-run mark.

Spinner Shoaib Bashir troubled Indian batters, picking up his maiden five-wicket haul (5/119). Tom Hartley (3/68) and James Anderson (2/48) also registered impressive figures.

The lion-hearted rearguard effort by Jurel, in the company of the lower order, not only lifted India from the dumps but also helped reduce England’s first-inning lead to 46 runs.

In their second inning, England were shot out for just 145 runs, with Zak Crawley (60 in 91 balls, with seven fours) and Jonny Bairstow (30 in 42 balls, with three fours) offering some resistance. Spinners took all 10 wickets for India, with Ravichandran Ashwin (5/51) and Kuldeep Yadav (4/22) leading the bowling charts for the hosts.

Chasing 192 for an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series, the hosts were off to a fine start, with skipper Rohit Sharma (55 in 81 balls, with five fours and a six) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (37 in 44 balls, with five fours) putting on an 84-run opening stand.

However, that was before Bashir brought the visitors back into the game, picking up 3/79 and reducing India to 120/5. Thereafter, Shubman Gill (52* in 124 balls, with two sixes) and Dhruv Jurel (39* in 77 balls, with two fours) guided India to a series win by five wickets.
India now leads the series 3-1. (ANI)

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