A Perspective on Karun Nair’s 303* Against England in Chennai

The most impressive aspect of Karun Nair’s maiden Test ton—which he converted into an unbeaten triple century (303*) and thereby became just the third player in the history of the game to do so, after Gary Sobers and Bob Simpson—was that it didn’t stand in the way of what India would have wanted to do at the start of the fourth day’s play in Chennai: take a sizeable lead and make England bat a few overs before the end of the day.

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Karun helped India accomplish their objective by accruing the second of his ‘three’ hundred runs in 121 balls and the third hundred in just 75 balls, scoring at a whopping 133.33 runs per 100 balls. Nair, who was batting on 71* off 136 balls overnight, upped the ante on day four, getting his final 232 runs in a mere 245 balls, to finish with 303* (381).

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Nair’s 303* helped India get to their highest-ever score in a Test innings (759/7) and take a 282-run lead, 12 of which were wiped out by England before stumps on day four in Chennai.

When Karun Nair walked into bat during the post-lunch session on day three and joined his state team-mate Lokesh Rahul in the middle at the fall of Virat Kohli’s wicket, with the score at 211-3, he was, in the eyes of many fans, not a critical part of India’s Test batting line-up. Fast forward a little more than 24 hours, and Nair enjoys an elevated status, which, make no mistake, he deserves.

However, after Nair reached his triple century with a boundary off Adil Rashid, Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter were replete with derision for Rohit Sharma, in particular, while some fans went a notch further and suggested that even Ajinkya Rahane, who has scored Test centuries in Australia, England and New Zealand and at iconic cricket venues such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), The Lord’s and the Basin Reserve in Wellington, might have difficulty in getting back into this Indian Test batting line-up.

The two tweets below should tell you about the derision people have had for the Mumbai Stylist, Rohit:

On Facebook, I came across posts that suggested Karun Nair as one of the mainstays of the Indian Test batting line-up, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Rahane, who is currently out with a right index finger injury.

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The biggest takeaway from the above tweets and many other posts on Facebook is the fickle nature of sports fans, in general, not least the Indian cricket fans who have started suggesting that following Karun Nair’s triple ton, Rohit Sharma’s Test career is now over.

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But below are a couple of aspects about Karun Nair’s triple century, which you must definitely not overlook.

Perspective on Karun Nair’s 303*

Karun Nair has now made up for the missed opportunities in Mohali and Mumbai—where, in the two innings he got to bat, he made 4 and 13—to prove that he has the qualities to be a proper Test batsman, albeit not without England’s generosity and being given second, third and fourth lives, respectively, by Alastair Cook (on 34), Joe Root (on 217) and Jonny Bairstow, who missed a stumping when Nair was on 246. You can only hope that having created such a reputation for himself, Nair does not fade away like Shikhar Dhawan and even Rohit Sharma did after scoring daddy hundreds (187 and 177) on their respective Test debuts against Australia and West Indies.

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The unbridled excitement and the uber positive comments about Nair’s monumental achievement at such an embryonic stage of his international Test career, are perfectly understandable, especially following the heartbreak experienced 24 hours earlier when KL Rahul self-sabotaged and fell for 199.

But the circumstances in which Karun Nair scored 303* should be taken into consideration. The Chepauk pitch has been docile since day one and on which, only 17 wickets have fallen over four days. It has been hailed as the ‘best batting pitch’ in this series and the Indian bowlers might well have difficulty in taking the 10 English wickets in the second innings, to win the Chennai Test and beat England 4-0 in the five-Test series.

No batsman can claim that he has been tested at any stage of the Chennai Test match so far. And, although none of us should take the credit away from Nair, we must tell ourselves that much stiffer tests await the Karnataka batsman and by making over the top comments, we will inadvertently heap the pressure on what are still young shoulders of Karun Nair, who is only 25 years old and is an unknown commodity at the top-most level of the game. And, because Rahane is an accomplished batsman who Nair has replaced in Mumbai and Chennai, the Mumbaikar will likely slot straight back into India’s playing XI for the solitary Test against Bangladesh in February 2017.

In addition to the Chennai pitch, this English attack, comprising of Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Liam Dawson, and Ben Stokes, has carried no threat and, for the most part, made the lives of Indian batsmen easier. Nair has to accrue runs against better bowling attacks and in conditions which are inherently testing, to gather confidence and become a batsman who can be relied on.

When Nair walked into bat last afternoon, India were under a little bit of pressure: they were still trailing England by 266 and the fourth wicket partnership between Nair and KL Rahul was going to be a crucial one. And, though Nair lacked poise at the start of his innings and looked to be a little too attacking for Test match batting standards, I think his building an innings and not getting out cheaply again, after doing so twice in his first two Test innings, does augur well for the future and should give him a confidence boost the next time he walks out to bat for India in a tense match situation.

But the bottom line is that Nair has to bat a lot better even in Indian conditions and on other Indian pitches, to grow as a Test batsman who is, in the foreseeable future (with five more Tests remaining in the Indian home season 2016-17), unlikely to play many Tests.

Closing Thoughts

From India’s perspective, they are fortunate to have unearthed another potentially great player for them in the coming years, having already seen Jayant Yadav take to Test cricket like a duck to water with accomplished all-round displays in Visakhapatnam, Mohali and Mumbai. If the players coming into the side do well, they keep even the established personnel in the side on their toes and those are the sorts of little aspects that a sporting outfit which wants to transcend itself and become a great one, needs.

In the comments section below, share your feelings about Nair’s 303*. We are always keen to know “your perspective”! 

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