Hardik Pandya, one of the most star-studded names in Indian cricket hasn’t been at his best as an all-rounder in the recent past, over the past couple of years there have been certain fitness issues with him that have forced him to rely only on his batting with his bowling form being in jeopardy. In September 2018 Hardik Pandya suffered an injury during a match of the Asia Cup due to which he subsequently underwent back surgery. After that incident, his complete fitness has been a concern every now and then. He bowled in a few series, then didn’t bowl in a few leading to his highly inconsistent bowling form. With him being one of the most important assets for the team especially for the upcoming 2021 T20 World Cup with fast bowling all-rounders playing an extremely crucial role in the tournament, this is of grave concern, his power hitting and him being a gun fielder just adds onto the case, which makes a like to like replacement tough to find in the near future. Even though he has partially been able to bowl, the huge uncertainty is what has triggered debates in the recent past.
Hardik Pandya bowled in the 2019 World Cup but took a break from bowling to recover post that. In the India tour of Australia 2020-21 he bowled for the first time after the world cup but that too at his bare minimum, he subsequently bowled a bit in the England tour of India however due to some niggle he again stopped bowling which was evident in the IPL. He bowled in the India vs Sri Lanka series however the lack of flow as a bowler was evident as he was hardly able to pick wickets.
Former India cricketer and now a commentator, Aakash Chopra said in an interaction
“It doesn’t seem like (Hardik Pandya is fit to bowl). Is it the form or fitness its tough to say for us from here. He hasn’t bowled for a long time. He bowled 2-4 overs against England (earlier in the year) and hasn’t bowled since, then. Didn’t bowl in the IPL either.”
A fast-bowling all-rounder like Hardik adds a lot to the balance of the team but with his injury issues, India is in need of a more reliable fast bowling all-rounder with a shortage of them in the current circuit. As of now, Hardik Pandya is definitely a part of India’s future plans, and Hardik as well eyes to bowl in the world cup, however, if fitness issues continue with Hardik Pandya, India might soon need a replacement for him.
“I want to make sure that I will be able to bowl in all the games at the T20 World Cup. I am just trying to be smart and make sure that I don’t miss that. On the bowling front, what matters is how fit I am,” Hardik said.
Even though searching for a replacement for Hardik Pandya sounds like a tough call to make, not searching for a replacement might end up being hazardous for the Indian team in the future. The presence of a multi-dimensional player like Hardik Pandya adds a lot to the balance of the team with him being a perfect finisher along with being able to be the 5th bowling option, the loss of consistent fitness might be a huge backlash for not just him but for the whole team. Subsequently, India might need a replacement, but with not many fast bowling all-rounders being in the scheme of things in the current scenario for the Indian cricket team, the Indian team shall start finding replacements before we reach an alarming situation
The possible replacements for Hardik Pandya are Shardul Thakur with him showing some batting form in the tour of Australia and increasing his stature as a batsman, Deepak Chahar presents a similar case with him establishing himself as a bowler who can bat as well after his match-winning knock vs Sri Lanka which has surely given a notice to all to watch out for him. Others include the likes of Vijay Shankar and a very tempting option in the form of Shivam Dube, however being an emerging young talent he is yet to establish himself as a reliable option, though he must be in the eyes of the BCCI as a replacement for the future.
Even though there is a need to search for Hardik Pandya’s replacement, the ideal scenario for the Indian team would be Hardik Pandya coming back to 100% fitness however with injuries playing a major role in sports, an eye on replacements is a must.