The interesting site during the second day of Galle Test was an elated and beaming Virat Kohli, when Hardik Pandya was hitting those big sixes. After all, it was a bold move by Kohli to handover Test cap to Pandya at Galle.
No doubt that Hardik is a young talented cricketer but still there are not many takers of his Test credentials. But if Kohli believes that, then let’s respect the decision and conviction of the captain. You can call it captain’s privilege.
Hardik Patel is on a roll for the past few months. He played a pivotal role in Mumbai Indian’s triumph in IPL-10. His last minute assault during league match against Pakistan in CT2017 was thrilling. But the knock which defines his prowess was the one he played in CT2017 final, though India lost the match.
But still Test Cricket remains a different ball game. As an all-rounder, if you can bat a bit, bowl a bit and quick in field, you are a good fit in limited over’s Cricket. But for Test Cricket, one should be either a specialist batsman or specialist bowler and some additional bowling or batting skills is bonus. The preferred composition still in Test is 6 batsmen/ 4 bowlers or 5 batsmen/ 5 bowlers and therefore a player who is half bowler and half batman does not fit naturally in Test plans.
So Pandya has a task in hand to prove his Test credentials and to ensure that he would be a long term Test prospects. He can do it as there were many in past who transformed in to an unlikely Test performers. Virender Sehwag is the biggest name in this category. During late nineties Sehwag was considered a quick fire batman with some off spin capabilities; best good for ODIs. He played for India in ODI during April 1999 and dropped after one-off match. He undoubtedly was a great hitter of the ball but people apparently believed that he lacked temperament required for Test matches.
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However when Sehwag made his Test debut two years later, he was a Test sensation right from the word go. Similarly Kevin Pietersen was only considered an ODI player in his initial days. In fact a story was doing round during 2004-05 that how Shane Warne convinced English selectors about how good Kevin would be in Test Cricket. Before his career had a rather premature end, Pietersen had already played more than 100 Tests for England.
But for Hardik, biggest role model can be Ravinder Jadeja. Jadeja came in limelight through his stint with Rajasthan Royals in 2008. He was a handy batsman lower down the order and not so extra-ordinary left arm orthodox. However later under close patronage of Dhoni, Jadeja became a Test prospects. Jadeja knew that only way to cement his side in Test team was to take a position of a specialist bowler. He did exactly that. Today Jadeja is a specialist bowler in the Test side and his occasional cameo with bat down the order is a bonus for side.
For Hardik, the only way to have an established position in Test side is to follow Jadeja’s template. He needs to take a fast bowler’s slot in playing eleven. Hardik may score runs in lower batting order but he can only be useful if he can convert himself in to a strike bowler. He cannot be picked in side for few boundaries with bat lower down the order. He needs to take wickets instead and then only he would fit in to scheme of things. He is quick but he needs to equip himself with genuine wicket taking deliveries, which is must for a Test bowler.
In Galle, Hardik was good with bat. It might have been delightful to see that but it may not make a strong case for Hardik’s place in Test playing eleven. As a bowler he was given just 10 overs out of total 155 overs bowled by Indians. This is not a good sign for him.
This naturally would be tough going for Hardik in Test, as competition for a quick bowler’s slot in side is stiff. But Hardik can do this, especially when he enjoys captain’s confidence in him.
Remember Robin Singh, the solid all-rounder during late nineties. Robin was a very important member in ODIs. He was a handy bowler and swashbuckling batman. He was quick in field. Robin played for India in just one Test, as he could neither be tipped as a specialist batsman nor a specialist bowler. Hardik Pandya’s case is reminiscent to Robin Singh. But let’s hope unlike Robin, Pandya will have a flamboyant Test career.
(The author in NewsMobile iJourno)