Veteran India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh opined that the absence of Hardik Pandya, India’s premier seam-bowling all-rounder, in the England Test series may just prove catastrophic for India’s chances to win the series, which starts with the first game in Nottingham.
Pandya hasn’t played Test cricket since the last tour to England in 2018 due to his back issues which has rendered him unfit to bowl no more than just a few overs. Also with the T20 World Cup in mind, the management has decided not to take any chances on him; he hasn’t bowled a single over in the IPL as well since last season.
Harbhajan Singh said that conditions in Nottingham are conducive to pace bowling and Pandya would have added strength and support to India’s bowling.
“I feel that Hardik Pandya’s absence could prove fatal for India. He had bowled well in Nottingham and this time the series will start in Nottingham itself. We all know that the conditions in Nottingham always favours the swing bowlers. England are always delighted at the prospect of playing at Trent Bridge as their bowlers perform well,” Harbhajan Singh said in his YouTube video.
The playing eleven would have been stronger had Hardik Pandya been there: Harbhajan Singh
Further asserting the value Pandya brought to the Indian lineup, the 41-year-old commentator also pointed out his previous game at Trent Bridge – where Pandya picked a five-wicket haul in the first innings and smashed a quick fifty in the second to help India to their only victory on that tour.
“I think the playing eleven would have been stronger had Hardik Pandya been there, not only due to his batting, but with the 10-15 overs he bowls in a day in swinging conditions, he can pick up wickets. And when he is in full flow, like the last time in Nottingham, he had picked up five wickets,” Harbhajan Singh further stated.
Shardul Thakur is the closest option India have in the squad to a seam-bowling all-rounder. But he is unlikely to get a game at the start of the series. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are the spin-bowling all-rounders who would be rather ineffective on green pace-friendly pitches.