India’s Hardik Pandya dilemma ahead of 1st Test vs South Africa
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India’s Hardik Pandya dilemma ahead of 1st Test vs South Africa

Hardik Pandya has played three Tests for India, all of them against Sri Lanka.

cricket Updated: Jan 01, 2018 19:15 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Cape Town
Hardik Pandya,India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India
Hardik Pandya could prove to be a key all-rounder for India in the upcoming Tests vs South Africa.(AFP)

India’s most well-fought series away from home -- not just the ones won -- have often featured an all-rounder. Be it Sourav Ganguly in the early part of his career, or Sanjay Bangar and Irfan Pathan in their heyday, India have benefitted from players who could bowl medium pace and backed themselves to come good with the bat.

That mantle was passed on to spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the last few years. As bowlers, they have been almost indispensable at home. But except for a defining second-innings 68 in the Lord’s win in 2014, Jadeja has hardly lived up to batting expectations that stemmed from his three triple centuries in Ranji Trophy. Ashwin has slowly grown into a solid hand and is India’s designated No 6.

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That said, India were always on the lookout for a decent pacer who could also bat. Hardik Pandya’s emergence in Sri Lanka last year gives India captain Virat Kohli a happy problem. Pandya may have a wiry frame but packs brutal power behind his shots while he can generate bounce in his deliveries due to his height. Bangar is the assistant coach and the former all-rounder is expected to mould Pandya.

The 24-year-old Baroda player has been stretched in training sessions at the Western Province Cricket Club here though that shouldn’t be any indication of whether Pandya, three Tests old, will be selected.

Former India all-rounder and coach, Madan Lal, feels it will boil down to how many bowlers India would want to field in South Africa. “Hardik’s definitely talented but he still has a long way to go. And it’s early to say he will make the team because it will depend on what type of combination India will want to go with,” Lal told Hindustan Times.

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Five-bowler votary

A huge supporter of playing five bowlers outside India, Kohli could be tempted to play three seamers, a spinner – most likely Ashwin – and Pandya, who could prove useful in South African conditions. But that would mean Rohit Sharma will have to sit out. And given his latest string of scores, India may not want to be without a gifted batsman like Rohit, who can score quickly.

Even without Pandya, India will have batting depth till No 8 with Wriddhiman Saha coming after Murali Vijay, KL Rahul/Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit and Ashwin. But that would mean India can field only four full-time bowlers, a scenario Kohli may not prefer. Either way, it would be interesting to see whether India deem Pandya worth a selection headache.

First Published: Jan 01, 2018 19:15 IST