Why Dhawan and Pandya Should Stay Back for Australia Tests

Among the in-form batsmen, in different formats, are Dhawan & Hardik, neither of whom are in the Test squad.

4 min read
File Image of Shikhar Dhawan 

With the limited-overs part of the Australian tour nearing its end, India’s focus turns to the Test series, and depth in batting is a serious concern for the Ravi Shastri-coached side, which will not only be without Virat Kohli as its captain after Adelaide but also will not be able to welcome back Rohit Sharma before, at least, the third Test in Sydney.

For India, among the in-form batsmen, albeit in different conditions, are Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya, neither of whom are in the Test squad.

Given its recent form, injury concerns (one of course does not expect any) and quarantine regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, should the Indian team management make late adjustments to the Test squad and ask the senior pros to stay back?

Mind you, in case player(s) are to be brought into the bubble as replacements, concessions regarding quarantine processes are unlikely as was the case with those flying in straight from the IPL bubble in UAE.

The Opening Conundrum

With no Rohit Sharma for the first two Tests at least, the toss to open the batting alongside Mayank Agarwal is among Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and KL Rahul. The two youngsters have not started off in the best of their forms, scoring ducks in the first innings against Australia A and 29 and 19 in the second.

KL Rahul, on the other hand, is almost as experienced as Dhawan. However, he has not had a lot of success either outside the subcontinent or in the white-ball games.

Pandya and Dhawan on Australia Tour 2020/21

Hardik Pandya (268 from 5 innings) and Shikhar Dhawan (173 from 5 innings) are among India’s top four in terms of runs scored so far during the tour and in between them are Virat Kohli and KL Rahul; each of them are the only ones to have scored a couple of half centuries so far.

Their current form in Australia shows they have settled in well in local conditions which only augurs well for India. Mind you, both have been impressive during this year’s IPL, from Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals – the finalists of the season gone by. Dhawan scored 618 runs from 17 innings while Pandya smashed 281 off 13 innings.

Dhawan in Tests Against Australia

In 2013, the southpaw has particularly happy memories of his Test debut when he smashed the likes of Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon for a brilliant 187 in Mohali.

However, after that, he played only three more Tests against Australia in the 2014/15 tour and had a mixed series, scoring some very gritty runs and a duck in Melbourne. While the numbers on recent tours to England and South Africa may not inspire too much, 34 Tests with seven tons and an average of 40.61 for 2,315 runs are not something that can be overlooked easily.

File image of Hardik Pandya 
File image of Hardik Pandya 
Image: PTI

Pandya in Tests

Even though he’s inexperienced in terms of Test cricket (11 matches), Hardik Pandya has performed his best in the format away from home.

A century in his first series against Sri Lanka before he dug in with the tail against a South African attack, comprising Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, scoring 93 and saving his side from an embarrassing first innings collapse. Understandably, he rates this knock very highly even though India conceded defeat.

In 2018, he put on a show with the ball first and then the bat in England’s Nottingham as India won by 203 runs.

When asked whether he would want to stay back for the Test, Pandya, in the post-match press conference, said, “It’s a different ball game, I think I need to be, I mean...I don’t mind but at the end of the day, the call is on the management. So, yeah, I don’t think I can say much about it.”

The talented all-rounder, who’s recently returned from a long injury layoff due to a troublesome back, has been in the form of his life, taking on situations head-on, well in line with his love for challenges. While Pandya is yet to play a Test in Australia, Dhawan got a chance in the 2014 tour, despite neither of them having played in the longest format since September 2018.

Since landing in Australia, India have made late adjustments to the initial squads, with T Natarajan being drafted in for the ODIs, as cover for Navdeep Saini, on the eve of the first game while Shardul Thakur was asked to stay back for the T20Is after Ravindra Jadeja’s concussion ruled him out for a bit. The BCCI, earlier, had hinted at Shreyas Iyer, who has not played a Test yet, staying back as a back-up when the noise around Rohit’s recovery was at its peak.

While Dhawan will likely be placed in the opening slot, Pandya, who will need to be looked after due to his back-injury, might be in a toss up with Hanuma Vihari.

Cricket in the times of the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on players who have spent many a week in controlled environments around the world, and like Justin Langer, India, too, will be concerned about the challenges.

India Test squad: Virat Kohli (c) (first Test only), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj

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