India’s swashbuckling all-rounder Hardik Pandya could be seen bowling regularly again from early next year, when the England series begins at home or in the Middle East.
With the Men in Blue facing a sixth bowler crisis in the ODI and T20 formats, one of the big focus areas for the team would be to strengthen Pandya’s lower back and his knee. Not that he isn’t 100 per cent fit, of course; if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been playing for the country.
But an arrangement was put in place right during the IPL that Pandya would be in the team as a batsman. He was tasked with fulfilling the job of a finisher in the Australian series, instead of worrying about his bowling fitness.
To every Indian fan’s delight, Hardik Pandya has proved his worth purely as a batsman in the last couple of weeks. He has shown that in white-ball cricket, especially in the death overs, there is no one more robust and powerful than him.
If all goes well in the next two or three series, Hardik Pandya will inherit the mantle of India’s premier finisher from MS Dhoni. The timing would be perfect too – right before the next T20 World Cup, which India are supposed to host.
With Ravindra Jadeja already wearing the hat of a batting all-rounder the way Yuvraj Singh did, the Pandya-Jadeja pair would be the most sought after combination in world cricket.
The way Hardik Pandya is batting, many would argue he should also immediately be inducted into the Test team. There will, of course, be a vacant slot in the absence of Virat Kohli, who will be with his pregnant wife after the first Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Does Pandya need to start bowling immediately to qualify for a Test spot? There is certainly no pressure from the team to do so. His batting alone is good enough; the way he is dominating two formats of the game, there’s no reason why the management can’t try him out in the longest format too.
Conventionally, those who play Test cricket well are considered good enough to play all the other formats. However, the trend in India is slightly different.
There are many who champion the cause of scoring at a brisk pace, and are excited at results being prioritized over technique. For them, the choice of Hardik Pandya in whites wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.