All-rounder Hardik Pandya owes his selection for the home Test series against England mainly to the value he brings to the side as a genuine pace bowler.
However, the 23-year-old, waiting to play his first Test, owes his inclusion in the squad to his transformation, having made his first-class debut three years ago purely as a batsman.
On Wednesday, after picking him in the squad, chief selector MSK Prasad explained that his bowling credentials were far superior to that of fellow all-rounder Stuart Binny.
Demand and Supply
It was as much due to Pandya’s enterprise as circumstances that turned him into an all-rounder. While his Baroda team was short on pace options, it also hosted Ranji matches on green pitches.
Once he discovered his ability with the new ball, there was no looking back. It has been a steady rise in the India ranks for the younger of two cricket-playing brothers. Krunal is a left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner, and both play for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
“I would like to be called an all-rounder. Please describe me as an all-rounder. I started as a batsman and I am now an improved bowler,” Pandya light-heartedly pleaded in an interview to HT on Thursday.
The IPL Path
Pandya owes his burgeoning India career to the IPL as he has managed just five first-class matches since debut three years ago. He first made news after smashing an unbeaten 61 off 31 balls for Mumbai Indians against Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2015 season.
He made his India T20 debut on the Australia tour in January and featured in the World T20 at home in March. But it was his impressive ODI debut last month – he took three wickets in Dharamsala against New Zealand – which underlined his maturity in the past few months.
However, he admits Test cricket will be a big step up.
“Definitely it’s a big challenge to bowl pace bowling effectively on turning pitches in India. You have to be disciplined and your line should be perfect,” said Pandya. “And you have to keep on bowling in rhythm, only then you will eventually get the batsman out. I am ready to face any challenge whenever I get a chance to contribute to the team.”
In the last Ranji season, he had his only five-wicket innings haul, against Railways on a spin-friendly Baroda pitch. Baroda had only two pacers and Pandya’s five wickets came in the first 10 overs, helping his team win by an innings and 113 runs.
“I am lucky to get a chance so early, that too against a side with world class batsmen. It’s going to be a good experience against a good Test side,” he said. “I am in good shape and have been preparing in the last three days by training every day, I’m getting better by the day.”