Washington Sundar: Reliable batsman, handy bowler and India's new X-factor

Washington Sundar, a backup player during the Australia Test series, has now almost sealed his spot in the longest format, while also being a regular in T20Is.

All-rounder Washington Sundar handles pressure situations with the calmness of a monk, and all his Test knocks for India have come at stressful times (File Photo).   -  Akhilesh Kumar

In the coming days, Washington Sundar will be seen in a different role -- a niggardly bowler of off-spin in Power Play, a clean striker of the ball, and a lithe athletic fielder.

Yet, it is his deeds in Tests and the pivotal moments when he came up with the crucial knocks that sets him apart, without taking anything away from his valuable strikes with the ball.

The 21-year-old Washington’s batting is all about left-handed class. He picks the length early, has time to play his shots, and is balanced in executing the strokes. His feet movement and timing are exquisite as well.

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He handles pressure situations with the calmness of a monk. And, all his Test innings for India have come in stressful times.

Take for instance his innings of 62 on debut on the quick pitch at the ‘Gabba. India, pursuing Australia’s first innings total of 369, was 161 for five when Washington walked in for his first Test knock. And then, he was involved in a vital 123-run partnership with Shardul Thakur. India finished at 336, within striking distance of Australia.

In the second innings, India was 265 for five, with the target being 328. Washington’s influential 22, during which he hooked Pat Cummins for a six, opened the sluice gates and India nailed the chase.    

Washington does have steel in his bones. In the first India-England Test at Chennai, the home team was struggling at 192 for five. Then, Washington’s unbeaten 85, of poise and control, enabled the hosts to reach 337.

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In the fourth Test at Ahmedabad, India was gasping for breath at 146 -- England had made 205 on a lively pitch --  when Washington once again pulled his weight with solidity in defence and strokes of elegance during his unbeaten 96.

And, he was involved in two century partnerships, with Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel, respectively, and India recovered to a series-winning first innings total of 365. 

Washington has scored runs aplenty for India --- he has 265 runs in four Tests at 66.25 -- and done so when his team needed them, underlining his temperament.  

As the fifth bowler, his opportunities with the ball are limited. But, he can do some damage like dismissing a well-set Ben Stokes in the fourth Test by spinning a few deliveries away from the southpaw and trapping him leg-before with one that came in with the arm.

Resilience is the essence of this stylist from Chennai. 

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