PARTAB RAMCHAND | 11 OCTOBER, 2018
Is Hardik Pandya Deserving Of a Place In The Test Team?
Already at the crossroads at 25
As he turns 25 Hardik Pandya is already at the crossroads as far as his Test career is concerned. Few young players have divided opinion as much as the utility player from Baroda. His supporters are of the view that he is the ideal all rounder, a seam bowler who can give respite to the new ball bowlers and pick up the odd wicket or two and a middle order bat who can clout the ball and come up with valuable contributions. His detractors say that he is over rated and inconsistent and that his utility qualities are perhaps good for the limited overs game but not for Test match cricket.
The jury is out on Pandya who is at an age when he has time on his hands. But with the competition being what it is he is in a situation where he has to come off almost every time for while he is more or less assured of a place in the Indian team for limited overs cricket he is still not a certainty in Test matches as his career figures will undoubtedly convey. In eleven Tests since making his debut last year he has scored 532 runs at an average of 31 with a century and four fifties. He has taken 17 wickets at 31 apiece with one five wicket haul.
Pandya has had his share of high points. He scored 108 against Sri Lanka at Pallikele but a much better knock was his heroic 93 against South Africa at Cape Town when he rescued India from 92 for seven to reach a total of 209 while negotiating an attack that consisted of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rababa, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. The low points include a run of low scores - 1, 15, 6, 0 and 4 against South Africa and quite a few spells of bowling where he has looked pretty ordinary and has not picked up a wicket. Consistency has not been Pandya’s forte and that’s been his problem.
The recently concluded tour of England presented Pandya the opportunity to cement his place in the traditional format. But to be candid he was neither here nor there. In batting he came up with one half century on his way to modest figures of 164 runs in eight innings at an average of 23.42. In bowling he had one five wicket haul while finishing with ten wickets at 24.7. Indeed it was his splendid double of 50 and five wickets at Trent Bridge that saw him being hailed as an all rounder. But with the frontline pace attack of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shammi and Jasprit Bumrah doing a commendable job Pandya was not really called upon to perform heroics. In fact he was rather redundant proof being him being dropped for the final Test.
Pandya will certainly not be required for Tests in India where the line-up is generally six batsmen (including the wicketkeeper), three spin bowlers and two pacers. But should he be on the flight to Australia come December? Does he deserve a place on merit? Will he be handy `Down Under’ or will he be a tourist if at all he is taken on the trip?
In Australia the composition of the playing eleven will be slightly different. Traditionally there should be three pace bowlers and one spinner. But when you have two able spinners in Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who can double up as all rounders it is a major plus point. Six batsmen including the wicketkeeper complete the line-up which means there can be no place for Pandya who will however continue to be a certainty in the limited overs squad where his utility qualities have proved to be quite invaluable. The most telling figure in his favour is his career strike rate of 114 in ODIs to go along with a healthy average of 29 and four half centuries in 27 innings. As a bowler he could do with some improvement but to be candid his bowling is a bonus for he is deserving of a place on his batting alone as he has the ability to turn the match on its head by his unorthodox hitting in the middle order. It goes without saying that he is an asset in T-20 cricket his deeds with Mumbai Indians being the ultimate proof.
So at the moment Pandya while being a certainty in the limited overs squad will have to work on his game if he wants to be in a similar position when it comes to Test cricket.