While India all-rounder Hardik Pandya was the star of the three-match ODI series against Australia, fast bowler T Natarajan spearheaded India’s attack in the shortest format. Sources tracking developments have claimed that both players were not even considered for the tour by the selectors initially.
Pandya finished the ODI series as India’s highest run-getter with 210 runs at an average of 105. T Natarajan was the leading wicket-taker in the 20-over format, with 6 wickets at an average of 13.83.
However, as per reports by Times of India, the national selection committee – headed by former left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi – wasn’t too keen on picking Hardik Pandya as a specialist batsman. The 27-year-old had not bowled since suffering a stress fracture in his lower back in October last year.
This was when the Indian team management stepped into the picture and convinced the committee to name Pandya in the white-ball squads, citing his phenomenal performances with the bat in IPL 2020.
“The selectors, at least some, believed he can’t go because he can’t bowl. It was a surprise they didn’t see the kind of batting form he was in. It took some convincing to have Pandya included because if it was left to certain individuals, he was unlikely to,” sources in the know of things said.
The Baroda lad not only took his game up a notch with the bat, but he also bowled four overs and accounted for the in-form Steve Smith in the second ODI on November 29.
“These are the kind of decisions that show if one is capable of looking at the bigger picture. Right now, whether he can bowl or not, Hardik is indispensable in the white-ball format. Between now and the T20 World Cup, these kind of selection decisions will be very crucial,” the sources added.
T Natarajan had his ticket booked to Sydney but only as a net bowler. It was after leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy suffered a shoulder injury that the left-arm pacer was drafted into India’s T20I squad.
One door opened another, and T Natarajan was added to the ODI squad as a back-up for Navdeep Saini. And the latter’s back issues and expensive figures in the first two ODIs handed the left-armer an international debut in the third one-dayer on December 2.
Although he did dismiss Marnus Labuschange and Ashton Agar, he conceded at seven runs an over. T Natarajan impressed one and all in the nets with his ability to bowl in the blockhole at will, thus pushing his case for the 3-match T20I series.
“It was absolutely clear he would play the T20s after what they saw in the nets. The wicket of Mitchell Starc in the first game [T20I] cleared whatever little doubt was there…But Natarajan’s ability to bowl yorkers at will was so astonishing that there is no doubt he should’ve been a part of the T20 squad. Not just a net bowler. In the end, he got what he was deserving of,” the sources said.
Nobody was more impressed than Hardik Pandya, who gave away his T20I Man of the Series award to T Natarajan.