Hardik Pandya’s role in the Indian Test side is gaining significant turn. Perhaps now, there is a counter to Michael Holding’s analysis and questions.
Pandya showed in the ongoing 3rd Test between England and India at Nottingham, that why exactly he is in the side and how much the management has gained in trusting the player’s credentials.
Pandya is still raw in Test cricket. He has played just a handful of 10 matches so far. This shows that’s its still early days and the side needs to back him strongly and allow him to thrive from there on. At the moment, the think tank is just doing that and allowing him to settle down at ease.
Pandya claimed 5/28 to rattle the England line-up on Day 2 at Nottingham. He followed this spell after a decent 3/66 earlier in the whopping loss at Lord’s. Pandya showed the desired character and grit to stick it out and bear the responsibility. The all-rounder has grown to become a modern day bowler and is handy with the bat as well.
The 52-run unbeaten knock on Day 3 summed up a cracking outing for the player. India is in a strong position to win this Test match and credit goes to Pandya for being a chief contributor towards the same. Now the fact lies how far has he come and is he the answer for the side to impress outside the subcontinent?
Has Pandya grown into more of a bowling all-rounder?
Many would have thought that the Mumbai player is mainly a batting all-rounder when he came into the scenario in Tests. His exploits in T20 cricket made one go gaga over a player, who could deal with lusty blows with the bat.
An aggressive Pandya, with time, has matured quickly and in England, he has shown the hunger to stick around.
With his improved bowling skills, continuous good outings could be a game changer for the young Hardik Pandya. Eight wickets in two innings for Pandya will give him the much-needed confidence to go forward.
For India skipper Virat Kohli, the relying factor on Pandya as a fourth bowler came to fruition at Nottingham. Pandya showed he is ready for the challenge and bowled with purpose.
This was Pandya’s first five-wicket haul in Test cricket and since it came in England, it should give Pandya immense satisfaction. The home side was bundled out for 161, surrendering all 10 wickets in the period between lunch and tea.
An excellent spell by Pandya
Pandya’s lethal five-over opening spell made the difference as he sent the English line-up reeling in a space of 28 balls. Pandya’s 28-ball effort was the second-quickest five-wicket haul for India in Test cricket after Harbhajan Singh took a five-for off 27 balls against West Indies in 2006.
India actually began poorly, bowling too short before lunch, only to improve after the break with a fuller length, bustling pace and assured slip catching. Pandya was in the thick of things. When Pandya was given the ball, the likes of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were just getting set at the crease.
It was indeed a huge responsibility on Pandya this time around. Off-spinner R Ashwin was off the field with a sore hip and Kohli had no option but to count on Pandya.
As the fourth bowler, in favourable conditions for seam bowling, Pandya’s first ball suggested he was ready. He forced an edge off Root was on a good length and seaming away.
The player had managed to get the right length from the word go. Then England keeper-batsman Bairstow was dismissed in the same fashion. Chris Woakes gloved a hook, Adil Rashid gave debutant wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant his fifth catch and Stuart Broad was indisputably lbw.
He showed significant improvement from the first two Tests.
Will Kohli go To Pandya for more?
Now with Ashwin back and bowling once again, Kohli will need to be smart in his decision making. When does he go to Pandya? In conditions like these, does Pandya come in more as a fourth bowler or Ashwin gets that nod?
Given Pandya’s heroics in the first innings, Kohli will be tempted to give the player a more prominent role with the ball. Some bursts of overs to attack the middle-over or in order to break a partnership could be the ploy. In the past, for example in South Africa earlier this year, Pandya was merely given a short spell of a few overs, and that never quite allowed him to settle.
He had just 7 wickets from 7 Tests prior to the England series. Now the figure has increased to 15. he could be in for more in the remainder of the third Test with two more matches to go.
Pandya could be as effective as Woakes
If Kohli gets Pandya to fulfill a role we often see Chris Woakes doing with the ball for England, then things could be different especially overseas. With the series against Australia end of the year, Pandya’s role will definitely become more prominent.
The Woakes factor is brought here because Pandya bowled with a plan and gave an indication that he could have an impact like the Englishman does for his side. Woakes has been terrific for England since return from injury and was their hero at Lord’s. At Nottingham too, he picked the all-important wicket of Virat Kohli in the 2nd innings.
In similar fashion, if Pandya can be trusted with more overs and given the responsibility to bowl against the best batsmen, there could be a wave of positivity. His average in bowling has improved with time and he now his tally reads 28.07. The work for his will be to get that lower and conditions outside the subcontinent will aid him with time to come.
Pandya needs that space to build on and have an impact similar to that of Ben Stokes and Woakes consistently. If he can produce the art of picking wickets, then India will benefit substantially.
Pandya is a classy all-rounder
There is no doubt that Pandya has the credentials in him to become a great player in time to come. He is young and fresh and offers so much across all three departments. One thing that can be said is his batting too has improved in red ball cricket.
Scores of 22, 31, 11, 26 and 52* suggests he is willing to hang in there and negotiate with what’s on offer. It isn’t just the one-off whirlwind 96 against the Proteas. Here Pandya has shown that he is willing to play differently. These small starts will soon manifest into something substantial.
Having a Pandya in this side doesn’t affect India’s balance. It’s a message now he can claim to critics that he is the right man for the job and will earn his way to be a regular face in the starting XI.