Three reasons for Hardik Pandya's inclusion in the Zimbabwe tour
- Hardik Pandya was the star turn in the ODI series against England
- The all-rounder was in his pomp, guiding India to a fine series win against the world champions
- Rested for the West Indies tour, he must be on the plane to Zimbabwe
Hardik Pandya is an asset when fit, but persistent back problems often handicap the dashing all-rounder. He was in his element in the IPL, leading Gujarat Titans to glory in their maiden season. Shining with bat and ball, he put in a man-of-the-match performance in the final. But since his return from injury, he's been eased back into the Indian set-up. Before the England series, he was used primarily as a batter, compromising his all-round abilities.
But the three ODIs in England were a reminder of his qualities. While splendid with the bat, his bowling proved pivotal to India's series win. In the final ODI at Old Trafford, Pandya snared 4/24 in his seven overs before coming together in a match-winning stand with Rishabh Pant. As the wicket-keeper scored steadily, Pandya flayed the English bowlers, ratcheting 71 in 55 balls.
Rested for the West Indies tour, the case for Pandya's inclusion in Zimbabwe is strong. But if there are doubt's still, we offer three reasons for his inclusion:
1. Experience, Experience, Experience!
Pandya's an old head by now and perhaps even a wiser one. His captaincy in the IPL was astute, welding together a young side into an undeniable force. With the BCCI selectors likely to send a similarly youthful squad to Zimbabwe- as they have done for the Caribbean tour- the 28-year-old will be a guiding force for the young guns.
2. Pandya needs game time
An intermittent presence since his return, Pandya will relish the relative gentleness of the Zimbabweans. While the England series was a huge success, he needs to prove that his body is ready to withstand the rigours of a packed calendar. With the T20 World Cup months away, followed by the ODI World Cup next year, Dravid and Co. will want the all-rounder to be game fit.
3. Get some overs under his belt
While he seemed in a good rhythm with the ball against England, Rohit Sharma was reluctant to overburden him. But as the comeback hits second gear, Pandya needs to be bowling fit- as the 90s bowlers like to say. Further, his skills warrant a place in India's test line-up, but that would mean reeling off a sizeable number of overs. A tour to Zimbabwe is the crucial next step in the process.