While the Indian Test team, under Virat Kohli, would be preparing to face England in a five-match Test series in the UK, India’s limited-overs squad will take on the Lankans in three ODIs and three T20Is in Sri Lanka. Ever since the tour has been announced, the big question surrounding it has been who will lead India’s limited-overs squads against the island nation. Veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan and all-rounder Hardik Pandya have emerged as the two main contenders for the big role. Dhawan undoubtedly is a deserving contender when he one looks at his commendable contribution to Indian cricket. However, there are couple of reasons why, logically, the honour should go to Pandya.
An eye on the future
Irrespective of whether or not the T20 World Cup is going to be held in India or if it is going to be held at all, the Sri Lanka limited-overs series should be seen as a grooming class for some of the youngsters. India are likely to appoint the legendary Rahul Dravid as coach for the Sri Lanka tour, and we have already seen what wonders he has done with youngsters. Team India will definitely field a lot of fresh faces in the Lanka series in July. It would thus be a good opportunity for Pandya to get a taste of leadership, so that the BCCI can gauge whether he can be captaincy material for the future.
The Baroda all-rounder has become one of the mainstays of the Indian batting order in limited-overs matches over the last few seasons. And, if all goes well, he should go on to represent India for quite a few years in times to come. While, in his initial matches, Pandya was seen as a hard-hitter of the cricket, experience and fatherhood have matured him. He proved in Australia that he can be a genuine match-winner with the bat in both ODIs and T20Is. Handing him the captaincy for the Sri Lanka series will be another significant step forward in the growth of Pandya as an international cricketer.
Of course, the analysis might sound a bit unfair on Dhawan. The experienced left-hander has done nothing wrong to not get the post. In fact, he has been one of India’s most successful batsmen in ODIs, alongside Kohli and opening partner Rohit Sharma. However, it cannot be denied that, at 35, Dhawan is at the fag end of his international career. Keeping an eye on the future and the overall development of Indian cricket in mind, Pandya definitely comes out as the better captaincy candidate. Dhawan, of course, can always chip in with his inputs as a senior.
Hardik Pandya needs some positivity around him
Another reason why it would be significant for BCCI to back Pandya as captain for the series against Sri Lanka is because there has been a lot of noise around the all-rounder’s inability to bowl in recent times. Ever since undergoing a back surgery in October 2019, Pandya has bowled very little. As a result, he has lost out on his place in the Test team. Virat Kohli and the Indian think-tank have made it extremely clear to Pandya that he can only play the longer format of the game provided he is able to bowl his medium-pacers.
While the assessment with regards to Pandya’s Test career is a fair one, there has been a lot of needless negativity surrounding the news of the Baroda cricketer being unable to bowl frequently. The coverage in the media over Pandya the non-bowler has been somewhat brazen and unempathetic. One really doesn’t know how much the hullabaloo around his inability to bowl has affected Pandya’s confidence. But, by appointing him captain for the series in Sri Lanka, Indian cricket can make a statement and reassure Pandya that he is an integral part of the team’s plans in limited-overs formats.