Few notable names were missing in India’s long squad for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and the subsequent Test series against England. Apart from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Prithvi Shaw who have had impressed recently with their performances, Hardik Pandya was a notable exclusion. Indian captain Virat Kohli had recently expressed that Pandya was crucial to India’s chances in Tests abroad as his all-round skills bring the X-factor to the XI.
But the selectors have omitted him out. So, was it a well-thought-out decision or a tactical blunder? CricChronicle takes a look.
Yes, it was the right decision
Hardik Pandya, the bowler, is not ready
Pandya had recently recovered from back surgery and has not bowled much in international cricket since his return. He did bowl in the limited-overs series against England at home. But he had hardly rolled up his arm over in the postponed IPL 2021. It is clear that Pandya, the bowler, is not ready to go through the grinds of Test cricket.
Hardik Pandya, the batsman, is not up to Test standards
And taking him purely as a batsman would mean benching a regular batsman. And it could be Hanuma Vihari whose superior technique and temperament are suitable for the longer version of the game. Besides, Pandya, the batsman, is yet to match up to Test standards on the seaming and fast tracks of England. Hence, until Pandya is fully fit as a bowler, his batting alone does not merit a place in the squad when there are better and technically equipped batsmen available.
But it could be a tactical blunder
Hardik Pandya provides the X-Factor with his batting
Thanks to Rishabh Pant’s fearless batting, India won the Test series in Australia and the Test series against England at home recently. Hardik Pandya does bat the same way and could take the attack into the opposition camp with his counter-attacking batting style. Hence, India could miss another ‘intent’ lower-order batsman who could not only score runs but at a brisk pace too.
He could bowl in short spells, giving respite to main strike bowlers
Although Pandya may not be able to bowl long spells needed in Test cricket, his short spell of few overs could just be the respite main strike bowlers could ask for. Besides, Pandya is also a wicket-taking bowler. In the last Test series in England in 2018, Pandya returned with a five-wicket haul in the only Test India won. And hence, India could miss the services of a pace-bowling all-rounder in England.
Backups to Pandya may not be enough
Shardul Thakur seems to have been chosen ahead of Pandya as a pace-bowling all-rounder after the former impressed in the Test series Down Under. But would Thakur match up to expectations? Thakur is a good talented all-rounder, but the flat decks of Australia could not be compared with the swinging pitches of England. Hence, another pace-bowling all-rounder in Pandya in the squad would have been an ideal option.
Verdict: The selectors could have named Pandya among the standbys as India is going for a large squad to manage the Covid bubble, and cover the possibility of injuries. But the selectors have not done so. It means India would have to manage with the resources available. India could miss Pandya whose brilliant fielding and positive attitude could have been an added bonus to the playing XI.