A lot of critics has questioned the tactics of Indian skipper Virat Kohli to go with an all-rounder in Hardik Pandya who failed to deliver in the first Test against England at Birmingham. Pandya failed to pick up a wicket; he was not even called up to bowl in second innings. With the bat, Pandya was just better than tailenders. Hence, instead of adding balance to team’s combination, Pandya is more of a liability to the XI.
Former Indian skipper and Test opener Sunil Gavaskar has opined that India would do well to include an extra batsman in playing XI in a low-scoring series such as England vs India where bowler-friendly pitches do not help in piling big scores.
Gavaskar was justified as India failed to chase 194 in Birmingham and lost the Test by just 31 runs. An extra batsman in the lower-order would have rallied with the tailenders and helped India crossed the line.
Barring Virat Kohli, every other Indian batsmen is struggling to middle the ball and score runs. Even a dependable batsman overseas in Ajinkya Rahane is struggling at the moment. Hence, India can do well to include a specialist batsman in C Pujara, who was dropped from the first Test, in place of Shikhar Dhawan or Karun Nair in the lower-order to add depth to the batting line-up.
The reasoning is that Indian four main bowlers in Birmingham Test comprising Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and R Ashwin managed to take 20 wickets with ease and would be able to do so in the upcoming Tests as well as the conditions are suitable for bowling. And hence, India need to prop up their batting order with an extra batsman.
But there is a catch. If England batsmen make merry against four Indian main bowlers, then Team India would be on the backfoot straightaway. A fifth bowler would make the job easier and can share the workload and give respite to the tiring main bowlers.
England had an all-rounder and fifth bowler in Ben Stokes who turned the Birmingham Test in his team’s favour in the last day of Birmingham Test with his bowling. Stokes took 4 wickets to win the match for England.
But Pandya is no Stokes. And India do not enjoy great all-rounders to replace him. Hence, India have the option of either persisting with Pandya and hope he comes good or strengthen their batting and bank on their main bowlers to do the job for them.