Once again, India lost a close Test match overseas. India lost the Birmingham Test by 31 runs. If it had not been Virat Kohli’s 200 runs in the match, India would have struggled to even compete in the Test. While Kohli aggregated 200 runs in the match, all the other Indian batsmen managed just 214 runs with the bat. Kohli was questioned for his bizarre captaincy. He left out a Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara from the XI. He continued with Hardik Pandya in the XI. Both the moves backfired. Pujara may come back in the next Test and Pandya too would continue to hold his all-rounder’s spot in the XI.
But does Hardik Pandya merit a place in the XI?
Pandya has flattered to deceive so far. And Kohli and the team management wants him to add balance to the playing XI. As an all-rounder, Pandya can be an asset as a lower-order batsman who can double up as a fifth bowler, but only if he performs.
And his performance in the last few Tests has been disappointing.
In the Birmingham Test, he managed scores of 22 and 31 and failed to pick up a single wicket. In the three-match Test series against South Africa early this year, he impressed with 93 in first innings of first Test, but barely managed 26 runs in 5 innings thereafter. With the bowling, he managed just 3 wickets in the entire series.
In comparison, Ben Stokes delivered with the ball in the Birmingham Test, taking a match-winning bowling figures of 4/40 in the fourth innings.
Stokes also enjoys a better all-round figures in Test cricket than Pandya. Stokes has played 43 Tests and scored over 2500 runs and taken more than 100 wickets. Pandya is not even 10-Tests old. It is still early days of Test cricket for Pandya.
So, at the moment, Pandya is more of a liability for the team than an asset. Ravindra Jadeja could be a better asset than Pandya in the XI. Jadeja is a much better bat than Kohli and has grown as a Test bowler. With England struggling against R Ashwin in the Birmingham Test, Jadeja could be just the perfect addition to the XI.
If condition allows only one spinner in XI, then India can go for a specialist fifth bowler in Shardul Thakur who can be back-up for India’s three main bowlers in Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Umesh Yadav.