Reports: Navdeep Saini likely to make Test debut in Australia with Hardik Pandya not fit to bowl

The Indian cricket team is all set to tour Australia in December, however, picking the pace attack for the Test squad can be troublesome.

Navdeep Saini
Navdeep Saini. (Photo Source: Twitter)

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The right-arm pacer Navdeep Saini, who relies more on swing and accuracy than pace, can get his Test debut cap during the four-match Test series against Australia later this year. Since his debut in 2019 in the limited-overs format, Saini has impressed the selectors and the captain with his superlative performance by taking 5 and 13 wickets in 5 ODIs and 10 T20Is respectively.

The Indian cricket team is all set to tour Australia in December, however, picking the pace attack for the Test squad can be troublesome as both the mainstays Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have injured themselves. The chances of the all-rounder Hardik Pandya getting a nod for the Test team are also less as he is yet to resume his bowling after recovering from back surgery. Thus, team management can turn to the young Saini for the role.

Both Ishant and Bhuvneshwar are unlikely to be available for the whole Australia tour which includes four Test matches, three ODIs and three T20Is. Both pacers were recently ruled out of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League as the latter aggravated a hamstring niggle while the former was diagnosed with a rib-cage injury.

Hardik Pandya is not fit for bowling; Navdeep Saini likely to be picked

Hardik, on the other hand, hasn’t bowled even a single delivery since his back operation last year. A source close to the all-rounder revealed that Pandya is not completely fit to bowl in the longest format of the game. Also, he is working on his bowling action under the former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan.

“His [Pandya’s] body can’t take the longer version at the moment, he is fine for the shorter versions though. He has changed his bowling action and is being monitored by former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan at the Mumbai Indians franchise,” the source said as quoted by Indian Express.

This could mean that Saini can make his much-awaited debut in the longest format of the game and can join the likes of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah in a three-pronged pace attack Down Under. Though other star performers of the domestic circuit will also be considered by the Board, the chances of Saini making it to the squad are relatively high.

With the Australia tour a month away, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to schedule a selection committee meeting to pick the squad. The meeting is delayed as the board is waiting for a detailed itinerary from Cricket Australia (CA). Also, it is learned that BCCI wants CA to make the training facilities available for the Indian players while they will be completing their 14-day quarantine period.

“The players will fly to Australia from Dubai on completion of the IPL, while the support staff is likely to reach Down Under by the end of this month,” the report states.