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Take a bow, Karun Nair

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Karun_Nair_India_cricketPicture this: England visit India, get off to a flier by plundering heaps of runs to draw at Rajkot. Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Joe Root make headlines for great form. Up next, England suffer manic losses, including an innings defeat at Mumbai, before succumbing to a continued onslaught of master-strokes by Cheteshwar Pujara, an unreadable Ashwin and a superb double hundred by Virat Kohli.

And then out of nowhere, when the series is decided, a young man makes a great name for himself in a contest where none expected him to surprise.

But that is Karun Nair, the 25 year old who has just entered a stellar list of world-record breaking batsmen with his maiden Test hundred score reading 303 not out. And that is cricket, ever the gentleman's game with room for many lofty strikers, and a fertile ground of massive unpredictability.

Karun Nair's heroics at Chennai, a ground where all were fixated on Ravichandran Ashwin and Virat Kohli, expecting them to continue their purple patches, proved that some patches are purpler than others and offer more tantalizing excitement when least expected.

Karun Nair's magnificent triple hundred

Who doesn't relish a world record, more so when it’s an amazing achievement at Test cricket level? With plenty of T20 appetizers served all year round and ODIs’ more or less loopy repetitions, where no previously unachieved landmark has remained unachievable, Test cricket in 2016 couldn't have asked for a greater finish.

This truly has been the year where the 5 day contest fought its way back to exciting, globally enjoyed cricketing action. This glorious height was scaled by a batsman who is as experienced in Test cricket as the number of times Brian Lara has taken up the red cherry to bowl: Karun Nair has done cricket proud. He has made India proud.

He has surprised England, shattered their hopes of stealing an unlikely win and – in the process of compiling a highly enjoyable triple hundred – reminded us that cementing one’s side in India’s Test bench is now akin to moving a mountain. It requires more than physical strength and mental toughness to be a regular feature today. It is a different battle today for batsmen, who prior to the end of the golden Dravid-Laxman-Tendulkar era, could only nurse hopes of showing their faces in the national side. The same batsmen have emerged as dependable men, with Vijay, Pujara, the newly reinvigorated Parthiv, the rejuvenated Jadeja, the undeniably talented Rahul, the ever ready Rahane and now, Karun Nair, all staking their claim to Team India's whites.

A fascinating winner in an otherwise dead rubber

477 in the first innings is by no stretch of imagination a poor score. England, powered by Moeen Ali's impressive hundred, would have felt proud. But what followed were cricketing gems, crafted by passion, driven by hunger to perform and led by enormous courage, first seen in KL Rahul's 199. And then, with Kohli and Pujara, India’s most prolific batsmen today, dismissed for 31 between them, by Nair's sensational unbeaten 303.

It is remarkable that an Indian batsman has achieved a triple century apart from he who rewrites record books with mighty authority, Virender Sehwag; the only Indian to have scored one before. But for a batsman who has only begun his Test career, playing against England – not a side you'd label a pushover, like Zimbabwe or Windies or even modern Australia on a bad day – makes his shining effort even mightier.

Karun's special effort

At a time when the plaudits were raining down on Kohli, Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara and Yadav, Karun Nair came out of nowhere and stole everyone's thunder. Better still, he has signaled to those who favor T20 cricket – where he was known for his big heaves under Dravid's leadership at Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils – that his IPL performances only hid the best that was to come.

And could there be a bigger or better stage than that of Test Cricket for a batsman to show the world his stuff? It took him just 381 balls to compile his maiden Test hundred, a triple whammy for England, if one could call it that. Striking 32 boundaries and 4 sixes, Karun Nair has proved that he is more than capable of holding on to an end in addition to unfurling his strokeplay.

Not too long ago, when Nair blasted a 328 for Karnataka (March 2015) in the Ranji Trophy final against Tamil Nadu, the likes of Abhinav Mukund, Murli Vijay, Manish Pandey were around and took notice. His mighty triple ton was built on a concoction of fiery aggression and calm composition, coming big after failures in 15 previous innings. But this 303 is against a bigger side, an international one, in the grander occasion of Test cricket and under the aegis of a Virat Kohli-powered India.

Test matches are no longer about just curbing pressure from an end and eating up deliveries. This myth was shattered by the youngster who collected 232 runs on Day 4 of the Test. These aren't mere stats, these are astonishing numbers that deserve some admiration. The pitch, regardless of its flatness, was only made flatter by a Karun who deflated England’s hopes. Better still, this star batsman has only just begun his run in cricket. May it be a long and productive one, a manifestation of his determination that ultimately takes India to new heights.

Take a bow, Karun Nair.

 

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