“All in all, the Trent Bridge Test has showcased precisely why it is wrong to dismiss a cricketer for one format just because he does not seem to possess the ‘technique’
Time and again has Hardik Pandya developed with the bat in Test cricket. The comparisons with Kapil Dev are ridiculous – but then, this is only his tenth Test, and batting and bowling averages of 35.20 and 27.68 respectively definitely indicate promise.
In fact, barring Virat Kohli (729), no Indian has as many overseas runs as Pandya’s 215 this year, and we are talking South Africa and England here. His batting average of 25.36 has been exceeded only marginally by Ajinkya Rahane.
The critics, Michael Holding foremost among them, were quick to point out that Pandya was an undeserving candidate for the Test side. He was not a “Test batsman”, they said, though it is not clear exactly what they meant by that.
Pandya was considered a batsman inferior to Cheteshwar Pujara (204 runs at 20.40 this year) and Murali Vijay (128 at 12.80). Pujara (49.44) and Vijay (39.33) have superior career averages, but their numbers outside the subcontinent (29.22 for Vijay, 27.17 for Pujara) make dismal reading.
And yet, Pujara and Vijay are typically considered higher in the pecking order while selecting Test XIs above Pandya – probably because they do not play other formats.
To be fair, Pandya was picked in the side as an all-rounder, and he has hardly delivered with ball this year – before the Lord’s Test, that is. Till the Edgbaston Tests, he had 3 wickets from 4 Tests, at 69.33. Then he took 3/66 at Lord’s – as England posted 396/7. These were the best figures by an Indian in the Test.
There was still criticism, for Pandya’s figures got drowned by India’s humiliating defeat. The voices faded out when he ran through the English first innings with 5/28. He took only 29 balls to take his 5-wicket haul – the second-quickest by an Indian. He then removed the uncharacteristically obdurate Ben Stokes.
So much for not being a “Test cricketer”.
What about Buttler, then? For long, Buttler has been dismissed as a limited-overs specialist. His strike rates in limited-over format may have a chilling effect on bowlers, but he was never considered a bona fide Test cricketer.
So, Buttler was recalled to the side after a 17-month hiatus, against Pakistan purely depending on his brilliant shown in the limited-overs formats. He stood tall amidst ruins with 67 at Lord’s. At Headingley, he smashed a 101-ball 80 not out to be named Player of the Match. After failing at Edgbaston, he got cameos (22-ball 24, 32-ball 39) in the next two innings.
Then came the second innings at Trent Bridge, where he walked out at 62/4, with England 459 away from a win or five-and-a-half sessions away from a draw: both seemed equally improbable.
Stokes dug deep, but Buttler did not compromise on shots. He dominated the Indian attack for a 176-ball 106; just like Jonny Bairstow in limited-overs cricket, Buttler made a seamless transition.
And then there is the case of Jasprit Bumrah, whose selection for the Tests in South Africa had drawn much criticism from all corners. He was a limited-overs specialist, they said. With still a wicket to fall, Bumrah has already raced to 21 wickets in his 4 Tests, two wickets more than Venkatesh Prasad’s tally of 19. Bumrah now holds the record for most wickets after 4 Tests among Indian seamers.
Bumrah induced an early edge off Joe Root; he removed the dangerous Buttler off a pitched-up ball and got Bairstow with a peach next ball, as good as sealing the Test. Chris Woakes fended a bouncer, unsuccessfully. He could have dismissed Adil Rashid (but for his ridiculous habit of overstepping) as well, but got Stuart Broad anyway.
Whom do we refer to next? Shikhar Dhawan, another man discarded from Test XIs because “his technique is poor”? With 35 and 44, Dhawan ensured India got off to two solid starts at Trent Bridge, as did his opening partner KL Rahul (23 and 36), who has enough weight as a competent limited-overs batsman.
Thanks to Dhawan and Rahul, India had two fifty-run opening stands in the same Test for the 11th time in their history – and for the first time in over eight years.
We can go on. Rishabh Pant, once again dismissed as a white-ball cricketer, hit a six off the second ball he faced in Test cricket and impressed during his 20. He has taken seven catches in the Test so far (five in the first innings).
All in all, the Trent Bridge Test has showcased precisely why it is wrong to dismiss a cricketer for one format just because he does not seem to possess the ‘technique’. He may find ways to succeed – if needed, unconventional ones. If not, he may adapt. He has the talent, after all.