Features and Interviews
Proud moment for my family: Binny
India’s Trent Bridge hero cherishes his match-saving knock on Test debut
Professional sport is fairytale sprung to life. One day you’re an ordinary human being, fighting your way through life, going through the motions and living out the script.
The next day the script changes. You find yourself on a pedestal higher than most people in the world. You are no more ordinary.
Stuart Binny will testify. Not that he was ever ordinary – his father played Test cricket for India and Stuart has been a lynchpin of Karnataka’s state team since over a decade.
But his fairytale began when in the 11th year of his domestic cricket career, he got a call into Team India. In his third ODI, he achieved the best bowling figures in the format by an Indian. A few weeks later, he was batting to save a Test match for India in England.
Binny walked in to bat on the final day of the Trent Bridge Test after the quick fall of Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni. There was moisture in the air and the English pacers were getting the ball to reverse swing prodigiously. Binny batted for 164 minutes and scored 78 of the most crucial runs of the match.
After saving the Test, Binny shared his joy with bcci.tv in a delightful chat.
How does it feel like to be a Test cricketer? You’ve had to wait quite a bit for this one.
It’s an unbelievable and very proud feeling, especially for the family and all my friends who supported me throughout the tough times I faced to get here. Personally it was a very special feeling to walk out on the field for my first session of Test cricket.
You’ve been playing domestic cricket since 2003. At any point, did you stop thinking about Test cricket?
To be honest, I never really put too much pressure on myself to play any format or at any level. I’ve always made sure that whatever cricket I am playing, I enjoy myself. I didn’t think or not think about playing Test cricket. I just took it as it came. But at the moment I am really happy that I have a Test cap.
Not a bad start to the Test career – under pressure, match saving knock.
I was a bit disappointed with the way it went in the first innings. I did the hard work for the first 10-15 minutes – which is the most crucial phase for a batsman – and then played a loose shot to get out. So today I just wanted to go in there and spend as much time in the middle as I could.
The ball was reversing and wicket started doing a bit especially with the new ball. There are not many players who get a chance to save the Test for their country on their debut. I did and I am really happy that I took it.
You weren’t much in action for the first four days of this Test. Did that make you doubly determined today, the thought of making your Test debut memorable?
Yes, that’s right. The wicket didn’t suit my style of bowling and I had to understand and accept that quickly. I was told that a Test match lasts five days that so I will be required to play a part at some point. So, I went in to bat with a very positive mindset. I knew that if I survived the first 30 minutes, the wicket would ease out. I went with the mindset of playing out balls instead of scoring runs. When you get to 25, that’s when you realize, okay, a Test fifty is here for the taking.
The ball was reversing in the morning – they were getting it to shape in. With what game plan did you enter to bat?
I normally bat at No. 6 for Karnataka and so I tend to play a lot of reverse swing. I just used all my experience of batting for my state when we were under the pump, and in India the reverse swing comes into picture all the time. I tried to do what I do there – clearing the left leg and looking to hit a lot straighter.
Jadeja was struggling big time against the moving ball. But when you came in to bat, he too started to look a little more comfortable. Did you tell him anything that helped him in the middle?
Jaddu is the type of player who likes to play positive but today the requirement was to bat time. We spoke about just trying to put bat on ball, look solid and not lose our wicket at any cost. The game would have opened up had one of us gotten out at that time. It was all about watching the ball hard and batting for each other.
In hindsight, do you think the wicket was misread a bit, given how less you bowled?
I don’t think we misread it. It was a hard wicket but there wasn’t much bounce. Even the English guys were surprised at how it played out. When we were batting, it felt like we were batting in India. It was a funny wicket.
Your father’s highest Test score is 83. Was it on your mind?
Actually I didn’t know about it. When I went back to the change room, it was pointed out to me. Hopefully, there are many more Test matches to go for me and I will be able to overhaul his score.
Features and Interviews
Finally, reward for Ishant
India’s bowling coach says the pacer has been India’s best bowler in overseas Tests
Ishant Sharma is an enigma. He has the ability of evoking awe and frustration in equal measure within the span of a few minutes. With 55 Tests under his belt, he is India’s most experienced bowler today, and yet, is only 25 years old. His bowling record of 164 wickets at 37.56 is not a bad one in isolation – given he plays most of his Test matches on wickets that are not conducive to fast bowling – and yet he is considered to be an under-achiever.
Ishant’s biggest critics are also his most ardent well-wishers, for they know what brilliance he is capable of with the cricket ball and the fact that he doesn’t display it consistently, irks them. As they watch his wretched shadow toil through long, tedious overs, they restlessly wait for the real Ishant to turn up – the tall, wiry frame, fiery pace, effortful bounce, stingy swing, mean accuracy and determined eyes.
On the third day of the Trent Bridge Test, between England and India, the real Ishant showed up. After the mostly eventless first session, the lanky pacer changed the complexion of the game with a spell that was worth its weight in gold. In seven overs, he got rid of half-centurions, Samn Robson and Gary Ballance, and currently England’s best batsman, Ian Bell.
He got the odd ball to swing and seam and thumped in an odd bouncer. But on the whole, he stuck to a metronomic line and length that would’ve made Glen McGrath proud. And thus, on a dry, dormant wicket, Ishant produced a venomous spell.
Ironically, the secret to this lethal display of fast bowling was patience. "I didn't do anything special. On this kind of wickets you need to be patient and keep bowling in the right areas and when the ball starts to reverse, it is important to put the fielders in the right place and then attack. That's what I tried to do today," Ishant said of his spell.
While the world was in awe of Ishant’s spell, India’s bowling coach, Joe Dawes, was not surprised. “Ishant as been our best bowler throughout the tours of South Africa and New Zealand. Today he just got the rewards for his bowling,” Dawes told BCCI.TV, referring to Ishant’s 15 wickets in New Zealand.
According to India’s bowling coach, the change in the ball due to deformity, after the 54th over of England’s innings, was also responsible for the sudden bursts of wickets for Ishant. “The ball change proved to be crucial because the old one was reversing a bit and when they changed it, the bowlers began to get conventional swing.”
If Ishant’s spell inspired a turnaround, it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar who left England nine down with his in-swingers to the tailenders. Dawes praised Bhuvi for his street-smartness and skills. “Bhuvi is a very smart bowler – he knows what he is capable of and he practices his skills in a very astute way.”
Dawes also said that despite being the slowest of the three Indian pacers, it was Bhuvi who bowled the best short balls on the day.
“I don’t think the execution of the bouncer was up to the mark today. I’d have liked them to bowl a few more, especially Shami. Ishant bowled a well directed bouncer to Bell and got him. I felt Shami should’ve bowled more short balls. Bhuvi bowled the best bouncers today,” he said.