Was adding Hardik Pandya to the Test squad really a good idea?
Published - Nov 15, 2016 11:37 am | Updated - Nov 15, 2016 11:55 am
Selection and rejection of players in Indian cricket is a strange affair. It is believed in India that starting early makes a better player even if it proves to be too early. However, when it comes to calling it a day, accomplished players are difficult to remove as they become indispensable of sorts. Others can be dumped at will, of course.
But this thinking hasn’t produced more than one Sachin Tendulkar. Several youngsters who were picked for the Test or ODI team in the past have not been trusted for long and dumped as quick as they were picked. Worse, these discarded talents were hardly reconsidered even after they matured over time.
Take the example of Hardik Pandya, the 23-year-old all-rounder from Baroda was picked for the first two Tests in the ongoing series against England. Though Pandya has played a bit of T20 matches, thanks to competitions like the IPL, his resume is yet to show robust numbers in terms of first-class and ODI cricket.
He has made his debut in 50-over cricket just last month. In first-class cricket, too, he is just 16 games old with not a single ton and has just one five-wicket haul to his credit. How prepared is the man for the test of Test cricket? Hope, we haven’t forgotten the systematic destruction of the talent called Irfan Pathan.
The danger lies in the fact that many of these players, just like they are picked too early, are also dumped too early. This has been particularly noticeable in the wicket-keeping department. After the exit of Nayan Mongia who served for seven years, the wicketkeeper’s position had become a bit unstable. The selectors had tried as many as six glovesmen in just one year till they found Parthiv Patel.
And among these six, there was one Ajay Ratra. In 2002, he hit an unbeaten Test century against the West Indies as the youngest wicketkeeper (21-year-old) and the second Indian keeper to do so abroad. He also made his ODI debut against England earlier that year. But the youngster’s international career had not gone past 2002 and by the early 30s, Ratra hung up his boots. The man, despite scoring eight tons with the highest score of 204 not out, did not even play 100 first-class games (he finished at 99).
Things didn’t turn out well for the man who had replaced Ratra either – Parthiv Patel. Though he played for India more than Ratra did but Parthiv’s wicket-keeping career was a roller-coaster ride. Despite being a pro in first-class cricket and the IPL, Parthiv was seen playing in just 20 Tests between 2002 and 2008 when he had played his last Test and 38 ODIs between 2003 and 2012.
For a player who made his international debut at 17-18, his last appearance for India in Tests and ODIs came at the age of 23 and 27, respectively! And given the crowd of players emerging every day, it certainly doesn’t seem the man would have a consistent career before him even if he has improved his skills since the pre-mature debut.
Compare it with the England players
On the other hand, if we see the new breed of players in the England squad which is touring India. The 24-year-old all-rounder in their ranks, Zafar Ansari, though played just his second Test at Rajkot, his first-class career speaks volumes about his credibility as an all-rounder. He has played 68 first-class games with three hundreds and 15 fifties besides taking 127 wickets (six five-fors).
Medium fast bowler Jake Ball has 115 first-class wickets to his credit in 35 matches with four five-fors and seven four-fors even if he has played just one Test and three ODIs so far.
Left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper Ben Duckett has just three Test and ODI matches under his belt but he has 10 first-class centuries in 49 games with the highest score of 282 not out.
Also, the 19-year-old opening batsman Haseeb Hameed who scored 82 in his debut Test at Rajkot, has four hundreds in his short first-class career of 21 matches so far with the highest-score of 122.
For India, Karun Nair looks more prepared for a Test debut having played 37 first-class matches in which he has scored eight tons with the highest being 328 but given the traffic jam of players India have in their batting line-up, it is difficult to predict if Nair will get his Test cap in the ongoing series.
While over exposure definitely helps more players surface in a quick time, making it easier for the selectors and captains to keep a strong reserve bench, but it also makes it imperative to manage the talents wisely so that quality is not sacrificed at the altar of quantity. People like Hardik Pandya can be given more time to mature as a player and thinking individual. Just burdening them with more international pressure is not going to do any good to either them or Indian cricket.
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