The Indian think-tank might have missed a trick when Hardik Pandya flew back home after the conclusion of the limited-overs leg of the Australian tour.
Game-changers come rare and the 27-year-old Hardik is one. Hugely influential in the ODIs and Twenty20 internationals with his visceral batting - his unbeaten 92 in the Canberra ODI also revealed his growing maturity - Hardik could have added value to the Test line-up.
Even if he is able to bowl only a handful of overs, someone such as Hardik could have been an X-factor with his batting alone. He is a dangerous No. 6 or 7, whom the bowlers are wary of after making their way through much of the top and the middle-order.
ALSO READ | Starc joins Australian team ahead of first Test
Hardik could have waded into them with strokes of thunder much like he did when India was reeling at 92 for six in Cape Town during India’s last Test tour of South Africa. An inspired Hardik tore into the high-quality South African pace attack with his blistering 93, surfacing at No. 7. And India reached a combative 209 on a spicy pitch.
His unbeaten 52 on a seaming Nottingham surface against England was valuable too.
Even during times when he is able to bowl little owing to fitness concerns, a case can be made to look at the wiry Hardik as a pure high-octane lower middle-order batsman who can swing games with his bat-speed, reflexes and an improving defence.
Australians are familiar with someone like Hardik in their Test line-up.
The big and strong Andrew Symonds was initially looked upon as a ODI cricketer but made a name for himself as a Test player with his attacking batsmanship at No. 6 or 7. He would go hard against a tiring bunch of bowlers.
Although he could send down a few overs of off-spin, the Aussies kept Symonds in the Test line-up principally because of his shock value as an explosive batsman. His 156 against old enemy England in the Melbourne Test of 2006 was a resounding match-winning effort.
And Australia was in trouble at 121 for five when Symonds’ counter-attacking 162 - he rallied with the tail - catapulted the host to 463 at the expense of the Indian attack in Sydney, 2008.
In attitude and spirit, Symonds and Hardik are similar cricketers. Match-winners whom the adversaries fear.
The Indians could have kept Hardik in the Test squad down under. Undiluted aggression can scatter game-plans.
- IND vs ENG: ‘One of the turning points of my life was 2012 England series,’ says Ashwin ahead of milestone 100th Test
- Ranji Trophy Live Score, Day 4 Semifinal 2024: Venkatesh Iyer falls; Madhya Pradesh five-down vs Vidarbha
- World Olympic Boxing Qualifier: India’s horrid run continues as Lakshya Chahar becomes fourth Indian to crash out
- Satwik-Chirag, Treesa-Gayatri win opening round of French Open
- IND vs ENG: ‘Playing 100 Tests means a hell of a lot,’ says Bairstow ahead of milestone match in Dharamsala