‘Hardik Pandya was asked to play WTC final but he said…’: Ponting, Hussain highlight India's major issue overseas
Seeing the Indian bowlers suffer against Steve Smith and Travis Head on Day 1 of the WTC final, Nasser Hussain raised the point of Hardik Pandya's absence.
Criticise Rohit Sharma and the Indian team management all you want to - they probably deserve a fair bit of that too - for not picking Ravichandran Ashwin, the No.1-ranked Test bowler according to ICC rankings but one of the major reasons behind India going ahead with Ravindra Jadeja and the four seamers was the balance of their side. In the absence of Rishabh Pant, there middle-order looks thin. Hence, the thought of dropping Jadeja, an accomplished batter in all conditions now, goes out of the window.
The not-so-great batting credentials of India's seamers mean Shardul Thakur was also a certainty in the XI. Where India could have gambled was maybe to pick Ashwin in place of Umesh Yadav. But apart from that, the area where they really struggled was the absence of a genuine seam-bowling all-rounder. Say all you want but Shardul can't be considered a genuine all-rounder in any conditions despite his two impactful knocks in Australia and England.
Did India not have a Test-quality seam-bowling all-rounder in their ranks? Of course they do, it's Hardik Pandya. Seeing the Indian bowlers suffer in the hands of Steve Smith and Travis Head on Day 1 of the WTC final at The Oval, former England captain Nasser Hussain raised the point of Pandya's absence.
"Where is Hardik Pandya?" Nasser Hussain asks
"At the toss this morning, it was so apparent that India were not sure about their side and Australia were crystal clear and Cameron Green has a lot to do with that. He just balances the side away from home in England. He is the sort of cricketer that India would have loved to have. Of course, Shardul Thakur is a seam-bowling all-rounder of kinds. In India, you've got Jadeja, Ashwin and Axar Patel. They are complete all-rounders in Indian conditions but what about a seam-bowling all-rounder when you go overseas? Where is Hardik Pandya?" Hussain asked in the commentary during the final session's play on Wednesday.
Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said Hardik Pandya was asked about making himself available for the one-off WTC final but he thought it would be unfair on the rest of the Indian players who have played throughout the WTC cycle to help the team reach the finals.
"That's the one line that was mentioned in commentary earlier today. He made it clear that he feels his body won't get through the rigours of Test cricket. He was thrown up in a game like this what do you think about playing in a game like this, just a one-off Test just to help the balance of the side? And his reply apparently was that he didn't feel it was fair on everyone else who have been through this journey in the last couple of years leading into this game," Ponting answered.
Australia's two-time World Cup-winning captain is absolutely right here. Ahead of home ODI against Australia - Hardik's first as ODI captain in Rohit's absence - in March this year, he was asked about his chances of playing in the WTC final. The all-rounder, who is now the unofficial captain of India's T20I side, said he hasn't contributed even "10%" in the team's cause to reach the WTC final.
“No. I am an ethically very strong person. I haven’t done 10 per cent to reach there. I am not even a part of 1 per cent. So me coming there and taking someone’s place will ethically not go well.”
“If I want to play Test cricket, I’ll go through the grind and earn my spot. Hence, for that reason I will not be available for the WTC final or future Test series until I don’t feel that I have earned my spot,” he had said.