Is Washington Sundar a batter who can bowl? Or an off spinner that can chip with the bat? Or can he develop into a real all-rounder? This is a question often asked of cricketers in the form of Washington. And it may be fundamental for India to get the best out of the 23-year-old in the future.
So far in his fledgling career, the Chennai young man has shown enough promise with bat and ball to suggest there is real all-round ability. Although he was initially picked for India for his bowling, his batting has particularly emerged in Tests, the serene timing, unflappable temperament and conventional technique illustrative of his upbringing as a lead-off batsman in junior cricket. Those attributes were demonstrated in the Test debut at Brisbane’s Gabba, scoring 62 in the first innings and a 29-ball 22 in the second to contribute to a win that is now part of Indian cricketing lore. In limited overs cricket, bowling is his primary responsibility for now. Not a great turner of the ball, he uses his accuracy and height well to play the role of a bowler, often taking on the challenge of bowling in the power play overs without batting an eyelid.
The first ODI against New Zealand last week was a remarkable example of Washington’s all-round skills coming together. He showed another facet of his batting by beating an unbeaten 37 off 16 balls, laced with three fours and as many sixes, then was as stingy as ever with the ball, giving away just 42 runs in his 10 overs when everyone else admitted. more than six per parent. When the situation in Christchurch’s third ODI called for restraint on Wednesday, he responded with 51 of 64 deliveries.
Such performances are what Washington consistently seeks. According to his father and coach M Sundar, Washington sees himself as a true all-rounder.
“He sees himself as a true all-rounder. He has worked equally hard on both his batting and bowling. He also took four wickets on his Test debut,” Sundar said. “I used to say he is a batter who can also bowl, but now I can’t say if he is a better hitter or bowler. He will be a lead-off hitter bowling off-spin for India one day.
Former India coach Ravi Shastri has similar expectations for Washington. “He’s going to be one of India’s leading all-rounders,” Shastri told ESPNcricinfo in May. “He is the future. This man is your main all-rounder in all three formats of the game. Hear what I say. Three formats of the game.”
The only caveat in Washington’s case is injuries, a recurring theme in his short career that has seen him miss many important assignments over the past 18 months. From breaking his finger ahead of the 2021 Tour of England to hurting his hamstring and shoulder afterwards, a slew of injuries have severely limited his time on the field. The final setback came in August when he injured his shoulder while fielding a boundary-bound ball for Lancashire in a 50-over game in England.
How have Washington and his family dealt with these hurdles? “He hasn’t been running well for the past 15 months. He was in excellent shape. He scored 96* in his last Test (in March 2021). If I say I wasn’t disappointed, I would be lying,” Sundar said. “No matter what happened, he didn’t stop working hard. He works even harder than before. He didn’t put any pressure on himself. He did not go to the T20 World Cup. But he didn’t think about those things. Instead of sulking, he has strived to get better and better. He is mentally very strong. This phase has shown its maturity.”