India recently announced a 20 member squad for a 4-month long Test tour of England. Hardik Pandya was excluded from the side which grabbed a lot of eyeballs. His inability to bowl in the longest format was stated as the reason for his exclusion. Hardik is one of the most destructive batsmen for India in the shorter formats but he still has to secure his place in the purest form of the game.
The all-rounder does not have a particularly glittering career in the longest format. He has scored 532 runs in 18 innings at an average of 31.29. With one hundred and four fifties to his name, these numbers seem decent for a lower-order batsman. But numbers are often misleading. Hardik Pandya had a great start to his Test career. He scored a quickfire fifty batting at number 8.
His most notable performance to date was in just his third Test – a scintillating 108 off just 96 deliveries again from number 8 in Pallekele helping India to a 3-0 sweep. But such performances have been far and few in his scattered career. He has had a total of 3 high-impact performances in 11 Test matches. He was outstanding with the bat at Pallekele and Cape Town and with the ball at Nottingham.
While that is not a bad conversion ratio for an all-rounder, the issue is his no-show in six of the remaining 8 matches in the format. Neither has he produced the big outstanding performances nor chipped in in both the disciplines (like a Ravindra Jadeja) with the supporting act.
Hardik Pandya was always considered as an X factor for team India. He provided the much-needed balance with the bat and the ball. He was the seam-bowling all-rounder India needed in countries like England and South Africa.
Hardik Pandya suffered a setback
Hardik produced two of his best Test performances in these two countries. He counter-attacked with a magnificent 93 off 95 balls top-scoring for India from number 7 rescuing them from 76 for 5 and helping them stay afloat in the match. Hardik the bowler picked up three wickets in the match which included dismissing both the openers in the South African second innings in quick succession again getting India back into the contest.
In England, he starred with the ball. He picked up a fifer in the first innings which included the wickets of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. He then hammered a cameo run-a-ball 52 from number 7 to bat England out of the match. Hardik had played a leading role in India’s only Test win in the series.
But soon after the England tour, Hardik suffered a series of lower back injuries that forced him to miss a number of series including the tour of the West Indies in 2019. This was a huge setback for Hardik the bowler and he was in no position to bowl long spells (or at all) with the red ball for India. Consequently, he has not played another Test for India since Southampton, 2018.
End of the road for Pandya?
Hardik Pandya’s inability to bowl is a huge setback for India. He has not bowled a single delivery for his franchise in the last two editions of the IPL. He has often played as a pure batsman in the limited-overs format for India.
While India need the services of Hardik – the batsman both in ODI cricket and T20I cricket where he is still a major force to be reckoned with and one of their trump cards in the lower order – as he displayed in Australia and the home series against England, without his services with the ball he is not good and consistent enough with the bat to demand a place in Test XI.
The rise of Ravindra Jadeja as a proper all-rounder and the re-emergence of Ashwin have dented Pandya’s chances of making it back into the side. The management has also found like-for-like replacements for these two in Washington Sundar and Axar Patel.
Hardik Pandya is certainly a great player. He loves the big stage. His hunger to bounce back might help him work harder. He will get back to bowling soon and might be considered fit for Test cricket. We all will be hoping to see some great performances with the bat and ball from the all-rounder.