Hardik Pandya should be picked for Australia Tests - Ian Chappell

The all-rounder could give India an extra bowling option to maintain the pressure when the leading fast bowlers need a rest, says Chappell.

Hardik Pandya hasn’t played a single Test match since August, 2018.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

India should pick Hardik Pandya in the Test side when it makes the trip to Australia later this year, former Australia captain Ian Chappell has said.

Pandya hasn’t featured in Tests since 2018 and only recently recovered from a career-threatening back injury. The big-hitting medium pacer is a vital cog in India’s limited-overs set-up.

“It will help if Hardik Pandya is available. He gives India an extra bowling option to maintain the pressure when the leading fast bowlers need a rest,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.

Pandya recently spoke about the challenge that Test cricket poses for him now given his injury-prone back which needed surgery last year. He said that he understood his importance in limited-overs cricket.

“This is Pandya’s chance to gradually build up overs in the three Tests before the SCG match, where he could act as the third seamer so that a second spinner can be included,” Chappell said.

“Having Pandya at seven would necessitate Rishabh Pant keeping and batting at six.”

‘Major headache’

Chappell felt Indian selectors would have to make tough calls while zeroing in on spinners with the likes of R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav to choose from. “Choosing a spinner will prove a major headache for the Indian selectors. R. Ashwin has a great overall record, but not so much in Australia. Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round talents and improved bowling form make him a legitimate challenger, while Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist-spin is the biggest wicket-taking threat on Australian pitches. The decision will call for brave selections,” he reckoned.

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Chappell said India’s biggest challenge in the Test series would be to deal with a strong Australian batting line-up. “India’s biggest challenge will be navigating a strong Australian batting line-up. In addition to [Steve] Smith and [David] Warner, the meteoric rise of Marnus Labuschagne at No. 3 has helped solidify the batting,” Chappell wrote.

“Australia are now far less reliant for success on big contributions from Smith and Warner,” he added.

‘Middle-order fragility’

For the home side, Chappell felt the choice of bowlers was straightforward. However, he wasn’t too confident about the abilities of opener Joe Burns. “The pace bowling is in great shape, with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson forming a potent quartet. The spinner is a simple decision - Nathan Lyon and then daylight. The batting line-up is not as clear cut. The recently announced contract list suggests Joe Burns will be Warner’s opening partner. Burns is vulnerable early and this is India’s big opportunity to first get at Labuschagne and then Smith while the ball is new.

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“Australia’s middle order is an uncertain quantity, with Travis Head, Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh vying for two spots. That middle-order fragility highlights the rewards on offer for keeping Smith, Warner and Labuschagne in check.”

Chappell said Warner’s opening partner was a weakness India could exploit. “Warner’s opening partner is an area of weakness that India need to fully exploit, but keeping the ‘big three’ quiet should be the attack’s main focus,” he said.

Chappell felt Australia’s potent bowling attack will keep a check on the dangerous Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, who was the star of India’s breakthrough 2-1 series win in 2018-19. “Australia’s strong attack should restrict India’s scoring to reasonable levels despite the daunting presence of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. This heavyweight bout will be decided by who punches above their weight - Australia’s ‘big three’ or India’s ‘big bats’.”

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