Although India are playing a full series with West Indies at home currently, Virat Kohli and his men would have set their eyes on the tour of Australia next month. After losses in Test series in South Africa and England, Virat Kohli would look to make amends and get it past Australia in the four-match Test series. One of India’s weaknesses overseas has been their fifth bowling option and they have tried, in fact, persisted with all-rounder Hardik Pandya who has, except one performance, flattered to deceive in the Test series in England.
He did come up with a match-winning performance of 5/28 in The Nottingham Test against England, but it was too little in the four Tests he played, totalling just 10 wickets and one fifty. His big failures with the bat made India drop him for the fifth Test.
Hardik Pandya vs Kapil Dev
Overall, Pandya has an average record in Test cricket that does not merit a place as an all-rounder in the five-day format, averaging just over 30s with both bat and ball. Pandya has himself said he does not want to be the next Kapil Dev as he is happy being Hardik Pandya. But in a talented cricketing nation like India, Kapil Dev has been the only noteworthy pace-bowling all-rounder in its cricket history.
And hence, comparisons between Pandya and Kapil is inevitable. And living up to the legendary Kapil Dev is no easy task.
What Pandya needs to do?
Hence, Pandya will have to perform with both bat and ball consistently to cement his place in the Test team. He has been helped by Virat Kohli’s dogged persistence with the all-rounder as the Indian skipper believes Pandya brings in a lot of balance to the XI with his all-round abilities. But Pandya’s inconsistencies have hurt India the most in the Test series overseas.
Pandya, a white-ball cricketer?
It’s safe to say Pandya is a white-ball cricketer where technique is secondary; while power, big-hitting, useful cameos with bat and ball are given prominence over temperament, skills, and patience to last the rigours of Test cricket. Pandya has proved his credentials as an all-rounder in limited-overs cricket for India and for Mumbai Indians in IPL and seems to be growing in this format, unlike his Test career, which is yet to reach its full potential.
Choose Jadeja over Pandya as all-rounder?
Ravindra Jadeja is making a better claim as an all-rounder in all forms of cricket. He played a lone Test in England series, but scored a valuable 86* and took 7 wickets. He made a comeback in limited-overs series in Asia Cup and impressed with his all-round skills. He is also an excellent fielder. Besides, Jadeja is proving himself with bat and ball, in all conditions, pitches, and opposition. Hence, it would not be a bad idea to play Jadeja as an all-rounder irrespective of the conditions and opponents.
What are the options for India?
If India would want to go with one spinner in the tour of Australia, they may well choose Jadeja over R Ashwin, whose poor record overseas with the ball continued to haunt him in England Test series and India can include a specialist pacer in place of Pandya to do more damage to the opposition.
Besides, India can look to blood a new pace-bowling all-rounder such as Vijay Shankar or hope Pandya will raise his game in the testing five-day format. At the moment, both looks questionable.
With Virat Kohli ready to persist with Pandya in the five-day format, the Mumbai Indians player would still make it to the tour of Australia. But will Pandya be worth the gamble in the unforgiving conditions Down Under?