The commentators were flabbergasted by the decision
When Hardik Pandya had taken India from 7-92 in the first Test against South Africa this year, to a score of 209 with a superb 93 off 95 balls, it was fair to say that India may have felt they had found the all rounder all teams crave in the modern game.
A tall, stylish and talented middle order batsman, who could take the game away from the opposition, or in this case, rescue his team from deep trouble with quality strokeplay, was on display.
After this innings he had started his Test career with 271 runs at 67.75. Add this to the fact he could bowl at a good rate of knots meant comparisons with Kapil Dev started to come, despite their characters being at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Forward ahead nine months, and Pandya would be dropped for the final Test in England. After a brilliant start in South Africa, the rest of the South Africa tour, and then the England tour, would yield mostly lean returns.
Along the way there were a few spikes with bat and ball, but not enough to suggest he is a test quality cricketer at this stage of his career.
A closer look at his England tour shows Pandya has shown enough for India to work with, and still have much hope for. He made starts with the bat throughout the series, and bowled some good spells too. He firstly offered good support to Virat Kohli in the first Test, when others had failed to do so. He was the last man dismissed in a run chase that wasn’t far off.
His contributions to the third test win was significant. Making a second innings 50 after taking 5-28 with the ball. Hardik Pandya can play.
Just Hardik Pandya at this stage cannot play quite to the level India would like him to. Not to help win big away series anyway.
He is still young.
After a poor fourth test Pandya was given a break, and for a young test cricketer, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In two tours where picking apart Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli’s selections has been part of a lot of cricket fans ‘to do’ list, this move from the two leaders seems one done with a great deal of common sense.
Pandya has potential, and it needs to be managed. By resting him here, this is part of the process of managing him for the long term.
Part of managing a young Indian cricketer, with the wealth available now to those who can hit a ball a long way, is managing him off the field as well.
With social media as prevalent as it is in todays society, the pitfalls of being famous and being followed throughout the day every day is a greater challenge than it was for cricketers of yesteryear. A good support team could only help Pandya, and then it would be up to him to listen.
So what do India do with him?
Hanuma Vihari has come into the Test team in Pandya’s spot and started well. A fifty on debut has been followed up with three wickets.
His bowling does look unspectacular though but there have been much worse starts in test cricket than this one.
He doesn’t have the flamboyance or perhaps the talent that Pandya has, but if there is more substance then he may move past Pandya and offer India a batting all rounder option and a solid number six in the order.
Time will give us more information on Vahari, but as far as starts go, this has been a good one to date, with another innings today to show what he can offer.
In a few months India will tour Australia, and Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will once again be picking what team they feel is best to win on an overseas tour.
Make no mistake, India have not been disgraced in South Africa or England, but they have lost both series.
Against an under strength Australian team, India will go into the series with high hopes. Part of the mission is getting the best 11 cricketers on the field when the first ball is bowled in Adelaide on December 6.
Whether Hardik Pandya is a part of that top six is yet to be determined, but he has a career in front of him, and potential to do well. Whether he fulfils that potential will be answered in time.