Team India all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been snubbed for the World Test Championship (WTC) final, which will be played between India and New Zealand at Southampton from June 18-22. Pandya also won’t feature in the five-match Test series in England since the same squad chosen for the WTC final will also battle it out against the Englishmen. The decision to drop Pandya is an interesting one since he was only recently recalled for the home Test series against England although he did not feature in any of the four matches.
So what exactly does the decision to drop Pandya from the Test team signify? At first glance, it is an indication that the management or selectors are not viewing Pandya as a long-term prospect in the longer version of the game. Before the upcoming England tour, Pandya was also dropped from the side for the Test leg of Australia despite coming up with some highly memorable performances in the limited-overs contests. A number of former cricketers were surprised to see Pandya not part of the Test matches Down Under.
The bowling problem
The biggest issue with having Pandya in the team is that there is no certainty over when he is going to bowl. He rolled his arm over in some limited-overs matches at home against England, but then did not bowl in any of the games in the IPL. While Pandya is a reasonable batsman, he can only fit into the scheme of things if he is able to bowl and offer something more than his batting. India is not looking for a batsman down the order for they have plenty of options in that regard. Versatility is what they are seeking. As long as Pandya was offering a bowling option, he was on the radar of Indian selectors for Test matches.
In fact, Pandya was reasonable impressive during India’s last visit to England back in 2018 even as the visitors went down rather poorly in the series. Pandya chipped in with crucial 20s and 30s down the order and even scored a significant half-century in the memorable Test win in Nottingham. In the same Test, Pandya also claimed his maiden five-for, and the only one of his Test career so far. His performance in England during the 2018 series was exactly what India were looking for from him. Ironically, the Baroda all-rounder has not played a single Test since India’s previous tour to England.
Time to move on from Pandya?
No doubt Pandya is a highly talented all-rounder and has won many matches for India in the shorter formats of the game. However, does India really require his services is Test matches? If you looking at India’s batting line-up, there is a definite problem at the top. Rohit Sharma is yet to prove himself as an opener away from home while Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal haven’t established themselves in international cricket as yet.
There are no such problems in the middle and lower-order though. Cheteshwar Pujara, captain Virat Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant pretty much pick themselves up. Ravindra Jadeja has also booked his place as the premier all-rounder in the Test team. Even Ravichandran Ashwin has rediscovered his lost batting touch of late. As for the pace bowlers, India have a less settled unit with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma leading the pack. Further, the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan can also make it to the playing XI.
To be fair, even when he was bowling, it was difficult for Pandya to break into the final Test XI, which explains why he hasn’t represented in India in whites for a while now. As a pure batsman, he stands no chance of making it to the Test squad, which justifies his omission from the team for the gruelling tour of England.