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Hardik Pandya is not yet ready to take the allrounder’s spot in India’s Test team, according to former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, because he is not effective as a batsman and lacks control and consistency with the ball.
“The [Indian] attack has not been the right balance,” Holding told ESPNcricinfo. “Apparently they are playing Hardik Pandya as an allrounder to help out with the bowling. When he bowls he isn’t as effective as he should be. If he was a good batsman, if he was getting runs – 60s, 70s, not even regular hundreds – at the number at which he bats and then he bowls and gets two or three wickets, happy, hallelujah. Happy with that. But he is not getting the amount of runs that can then allow him to get a wicket or two in the Test match. That doesn’t work.”
Pandya made his Test debut last July in Sri Lanka, scoring a fifty in Galle and followed it with his maiden Test century in Pallekelle in his third Test. He has played nine Tests so far and, barring the home series against Sri Lanka for which he was rested late last year, he has been the only constant in the Test XI along with captain Virat Kohli.
In his fledgling Test career, Pandya has had more success with bat than ball – 458 runs at an average of 32.71 with a century and three half-centuries, and 10 wickets at an average of 39.30 and a strike rate of 71.50. Overseas, Kohli has used Pandya largely to give the frontline bowlers relief. The Lord’s Test was Pandya’s most hectic in terms of bowling workload in a single innings – he bowled 17.1 overs and performed the role of the third seamer, assisting the new-ball pair of Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.
That Pandya had to bowl more was a consequence of Kohli’s decision to field two spinners in wet and overcast conditions. Pandya took three wickets, having gone wicketless in the first Test at Edgbaston. Incidentally, he is the second highest run-scorer for India – after Kohli – this series. But the fact that R Ashwin is five runs behind Pandya, who has scored 90 in the two Tests, only illustrates how horrific the series has been for India’s batsmen.
Before the Lord’s Test, Pandya had gone wicketless for four Tests, starting from the second match in South Africa in January. While appraising Pandya’s bowling, Holding said he did not have many skills.
“I don’t think he does a lot with the ball. That is number one,” Holding said. “He is not consistent. He does not have the control that puts batsmen under pressure constantly. He will bowl a couple of good deliveries, yes, but you need to have the control to put batsmen under pressure consistently. And he doesn’t have that. If you are going to be a frontline bowler anywhere in the world, if you are going to be someone that your captain can rely on, that can throw you the ball and expect you to get wickets and expect you to have control, he is not really the man in my opinion.”
Holding said India were shooting themselves in the foot by playing Pandya as the third seamer because he does not have the “firepower” to help them take 20 wickets.
When asked to describe his role after the third day’s play at Lord’s, Pandya did not want to classify himself as a batting or a bowling allrounder. “If I’m batting I think as a batsman and if I’m bowling I think as a bowler.” Pandya had said. “I don’t have any one particular role.”
Holding said India were trying to make Pandya perform the roles of two players, which he was not yet equipped to do. “Not if I have someone else who is fit,” Holding said, when asked if Pandya should play at Trent Bridge. “If there is no one else, sure you have to play him. If there is someone else that is a specialist batsman or specialist bowler I will certainly prefer that. There must be someone that can bat better if they want a batsman, there must be someone who can bowl better if they want a bowler. But it seems as if they are trying to fill two spots with one person. He (Pandya) is not there yet.”
Despite his scathing assessment of Pandya, Holding said he is young and has time to develop as an allrounder.
“I am not going to tell anyone that you won’t be there because he is a young man. But he is not there yet. I heard a mention, when I was working in South Africa: ‘he is the next Kapil Dev’. I ain’t going to tell anybody he’s not going to be the next Kapil Dev, but he is nowhere near there yet. And they need to find someone who can contribute a lot more to this team right now.”
Michael Holding was speaking at the launch of Proatar, a mentoring app that puts amateur cricketers in touch with elite players to help them raise their game.