“Hence, ideally, India should give Pandya another go at the Oval Test to prove his worth. But if he doesn’t put up significant performance, the think-tank should look to try out new option like Vijay Shankar in the home series against West Indies next month”
First thing first. There is no denying that Hardik Pandya is an important member of the Indian Test team in overseas conditions. His all-round ability adds a great value to the balance of the Indian team. Most importantly he fits ideally into Virat Kohli’s scheme of things of playing five bowlers on these pace-friendly conditions.
Nevertheless, just because Pandya is the best available seam bowling all-round option in India, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is ready to be classified as one of the best in the business, someone like his English counterpart Ben Stokes, who can be picked in the XI both as a specialist batsman or as a specialist bowler.
In fact, along with the batting failures of both the sides, the other talking point of the ongoing England-India series is – whether Pandya is qualified to be tagged as a Test all-rounder or he is just a bits-and-pieces cricketer. Michael Holding, who is in the commentary panel of Sky Sports, first raised questions on Pandya’s capabilities and as expected, he was severely criticised by the Indian fans.
Well, if we look at the data, Pandya hasn’t had a disastrous tour, like some of his teammates. In these typical English conditions, he should ideally be considered as more of a bowling all-rounder and with the ball in hand, the 24-year old has 10 wickets in six innings at 24.70, including a game-changing five-for at Nottingham. With the bat, he has 164 runs in eight innings at 23.42 including a half-century, which in the context of this series seems pretty decent. In fact, both the fifty and the five-for came in the same match, during India’s victory at Trent Bridge.
But not all the time data should be considered as conclusive evidence (at least the author believes so). One should also dig deep into the context to find out the real picture.
England have won three Test matches of this series and on all three occasions, an all-rounder had been awarded as the ‘Man of match’ – debutant Sam Curran at Edgbaston followed by Chris Woakes at the Lord’s and Moeen Ali at Ageas Bowl. Hence, it can be safely said that England all-rounders have more impact than Pandya in the context of the series as they have converted their efforts into match-winning performances.
Furthermore, in this series Pandya has bowled on 64.1 overs in six innings, which is a little more than 10 overs per innings. Now compare that to Stokes, who had featured in the XI in three Test matches and bowled 87.1 overs in six innings, which close to 15 overs per innings. And remember, going into the Southampton Test, he was not 100 percent fit.
Also, on that pitch, where pacers had a significant amount of help, Pandya only bowled 17 in two England innings. On a similar sort of wicket at Edgbaston, Kohli didn’t use him at all in the second innings, not even as a partnership-breaking option, when Sam Curran was bailing out England from 87 for 7.
Now, let’s talk about his batting.
After eight knocks in England as well as his last five innings in South Africa (barring the 93 in the first innings of Cape Town) it is crystal clear that Pandya is under-qualified to bat at No. 6, especially on pitches like these. In the first innings of Southampton, he was pushed back to 7 and failed. Then, during India’s run-chase of 246, he was promoted ahead of Rishabh Pant at 6, but again he couldn’t open his account. Stokes with the old ball squared him up, which shows his technical limitations as a batsman.
Now, it is important to see how long Kohli and the team management will stick to him considering that fact that there is a tour of Australia scheduled at the end of this year. In fact, Ravi Shastri has already made it clear that if the Pandya move doesn’t work, the team management will look of another option.
“When you are young you are got to be thrown into the deep end You got to persevere and see whether it works or doesn’t work. If it doesn’t, there will be another option,” Shastri said in a press meet at the Oval.
Hence, ideally, India should give Pandya another go at the Oval Test to prove his worth. But if he doesn’t put up significant performance, the think-tank should look to try out new option like Vijay Shankar in the home series against West Indies next month.