There has been a perpetual theory in cricket according to which all-rounders are ranked. They must be able to make the team as a specialist batsman or bowler – the extra facet is an added advantage.
However, with the upsurge of limited-overs cricket, especially T20, there has been a profusion of ‘bits-and-pieces’ cricketers. This species may not be able to make the team on the basis of their core competency. However, they somehow fit in the team on the grounds of their value addition.
Hardik Pandya is one such player, who is seemingly the product of India’s long search of a quality pace-bowling all-rounder. Very early in his career, he had been tagged alongside one of the greatest all-rounders of all time, Kapil Dev.
He has not fared too badly in South Africa till now – but is he doing enough for the team? Probably not.
This article presents five arguments that elaborate on the above premise.
Hardik Pandya announced his arrival in South Africa by notching up an explosive 93 in the first innings of the opening Test to bail India out of trouble. Alongside that, he also picked up three wickets in Cape Town. But his performance ebbed as the tour moved forward.
In the first innings at Newlands as well, he played and missed a number of times. He was also dropped by Dean Elgar in the slips when he was new at the crease. His attacking style may have worked once – but it will probably not take him too far. After all, this is Test cricket.
If Hardik Pandya fails to score runs, you don’t mind too much. If Pandya does not pick up wickets, you don’t mind too much. You don’t mind because he is an all-rounder.
It’s high time now that Pandya shoulders the responsibility of either batting or bowling. If he is good enough to make the team as a number six batsman, he has to score runs. If he is in the team as the fourth seamer, he has to pick up wickets.
The Indian batting has had a streak of collapses on the South African tour. Apart from the innings in which Kohli’s 153 took the total to 307, the team has not even come close to the 250-run mark.
Almost all cricket experts are in unanimous agreement that India is playing with a batsman short. To factor Pandya in, vice-captain Rahane has been kept on the sidelines. Rohit Sharma’s successive failures have further hampered the team’s cause. India ought to pick six specialist batsmen if they have to give the Proteas a tough fight.
Twice in the second Test match, Pandya gave evidence of his heady demeanour. In the first innings, he made a childish error when he did not ground his bat while running between the wickets. As a result, his feet and bat were in the air when the ball hit the stumps and he was run out. In the second innings, when the team needed him to save the match, he again chose to depart by playing a rash shot.
Even the legendary Kapil Dev could not help but vent his frustration. While talking to a news channel, the captain of the 1983 World Cup-winning team said, “If Pandya keeps making silly mistakes like these, then he doesn’t deserve to be compared with me.”
After bagging three wickets in the first match, Pandya failed to open his account in Centurion. He bowled a total of 25 overs in the match but could not pick up a wicket. Moreover, in the first innings, he had the second highest economy rate among the Indian bowlers, after the mercurial Mohammed Shami.
With a match winner like Bhuvneshwar Kumar sitting out, it is strange to include Pandya in the playing XI. India has the option of dropping Pandya and playing either Bhuvi or Rahane in his place to bolster the batting or the bowling line-up.