Double-hundred in maiden Duleep Trophy match. First Indian to hit a double on pink-ball debut. Rallying India Red from 205 for 9 to 383. Dominating the highest tenth-wicket stand (178) in the tournament, and the second-highest in Indian first-class cricket. B Indrajith could not have asked for a better start to the 2017-18 first-class season.
The 23-year old batsman from Tamil Nadu was in his sixties when the ninth wicket of the innings fell. Scoring a hundred, let alone a big one, seemed far fetched.
But Indrajith combined with Vijay Gohil and blunted the India Blue attack under the floodlights to lead a remarkable recovery. "This is a very, very special innings for me," he told ESPNcricinfo from Kanpur. "I did not expect to score a hundred after we were nine down. To reach a double-hundred from there is very special. Vijay Gohil defended tightly and I found a rhythm. Without his support and partnership, it would not have been possible."
After closing the first day at 120 off 181 balls, Indrajith reached his 200 off 280 balls, smashing 20 fours and six sixes. This despite India Red captain Suresh Raina posting five men on the boundary as soon as the batsman had moved past his century.
"I later took calculated risks when the ball was in my area," Indrajith said. "I hit out against the spinners and targeted some medium-pacers. I told Vijay 'I will face the first three balls of the over and then try to turn the strike and give it to you'. I asked him to push for two and run hard whenever he found the gap in the outfield and dealt with the situation. He also showed good application, defended tightly, and left balls outside off."
In addition to the match situation, which was complicated enough, Indrajith had to deal with a couple of issues with the pink ball. "At times, it is hard to spot the seam," he said. "I usually play the red ball looking at the shine, I could not do the same against the pink ball. It swung in the first five-six overs; once you see that off and settle down, you can score runs.
"I did not find it easy to pick the spinners, too, particularly under lights. Wristspin is more difficult to pick but India Blue did not have a wristspinner. At the nets, I found it difficult to pick my team-mate Karn Sharma under lights… The trend has been that wickets fall to the new pink ball under lights. But me, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi and Vijay Gohil hung on."
Indrajith is into his fifth season as a first-class cricketer. In 2015, two years after his debut, he was named the Tamil Nadu vice-captain but a sharp decline in form forced him out of his leadership position. Able to concentrate solely on his batting again, he struck 697 runs from 14 innings in 2016-17, playing a vital part in Tamil Nadu's run to the Ranji Trophy semi-final. He was selected to play for India A against the touring Australians on the back of that performance.
Indrajith starting the new season with a back-to-the-wall double-century was the result of his preparation leading up to it. His personal coach and former Railways player S Balaji said: "He has been working hard at training before the season and there a few aspects to it.
"Firstly throwdowns, sometimes we use a steel pipe instead of the bat - the pipe is roughly the same weight as that of the bat. Then visualisation: what length the bowler might bowl and respond to various situations. Then during 22-yard practice, we ask for certain wickets, whether seaming pitches or turners. We also practiced at [team-mate] Vijay Shankar's terrace, where one end of the make-shift indoor pitch has tiles. The ball turns madly and sometimes jumps from there. It has helped all three [Indrajith, his twin brother Aparajith and Shankar] of them deal with uneven turn and bounce."
Balaji hoped the Duleep Trophy innings was the start of a Indrajith rectifying a flaw in his career so far: "I have been telling him in the last few years the impact innings haven't been coming and that he needs to improve. He is due for bigger call-ups. He has been hitting fifties and hundreds in Ranji Trophy, but there weren't many high-impact innings. In fact, 10 days back, VB Chandrasekhar called me and asked 'why he hasn't been scoring big'? Hopefully, this turns out to be that innings."