Friday, February 23, 2024

‘I will not be available’: Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya rules himself out of World Test Championship final

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Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya has confessed he does not deserve a Test recall, ruling himself out of this year’s World Test Championship final against Australia.

The 29-year-old, who will captain India in Friday evening’s first ODI against Australia, played 11 Tests for his country after making his debut in 2017.

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Pandya took 5-28 during India’s 203-run victory over England at Trent Bridge in 2018, dismissing Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow before running through the tail.

However, the all-rounder has not played any form of first-class cricket since December 2018, with injury and white-ball commitments preventing him from plying his trade in the Ranji Trophy.

Last year, Pandya elected to skip the first-class competition to focus on his rehabilitation ahead of the Indian Premier League.

Pandya has cemented himself as a stalwart in India’s one-day teams, playing 71 ODIs and 87 T20Is — in the absence of captain Rohit Sharma, he will lead his country in the series opener on Friday.

After winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1, India has qualified for the World Test Championship final against Australia, which will take place at The Oval in June.

Earlier this week, former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson called for the Gujarat Titans captain to slide back into the Test starting XI if fit.

“If his body can handle the rigours of Test cricket, then absolutely,” Watson told the Hindustan Times.

“He has got incredible skills even with his batting alone. He has got a very, very sound batting technique … he has got the game to perform in Test cricket.

“Bowling wise, if he is fit he charges in and he has got great skill. He can swing the brand new ball away and he would provide a huge impact for the Indian Test team. For me it eventually comes down to his body and whether it can handle the rigours of playing Test cricket as a fast-bowling all-rounder.

“I would love to see him push the limits as an all-rounder and cricketer when it comes to playing all formats of the game because he is one of the special talents in world cricket.”

Hardik Pandya of India. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

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Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pandya was quizzed on whether he’d be pushing for Test recall ahead of the marquee fixture — and his response was brutally honest.

“No. I am ethically very strong person. I haven’t done 10 per cent to reach there. I am not even a part of 1 per cent,” Pandya said.

“So me coming there and taking someone’s place will ethically not go well. If I want to play Test cricket, I’ll go through the grind and earn my spot. Hence, for that reason I will not be available for the WTC final or future Test series until I feel that I have earned my spot.”

Pandya averages 30.02 with the bat at first-class level, scoring one century since his debut back in 2013.

The right-armer’s medium pace could prove a handful in English conditions, while his counterattacking batting style would also be beneficial — he boasts a Test strike rate of 73.88, the second-highest for India in history.

India’s Test squad is plagued with injury — paceman Jasprit Bumrah, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and batter Shreya Iyer are all in doubt for the World Test Championship final — but a BCCI official confirmed to InsideSport there has been “no discussion with Hardik regarding Test return yet”.

India will ramp up its preparation for the World Cup with a three-match ODI series against Australia, which gets underway at Wankhede Stadium on Friday evening.

Australia is the only team that has managed to defeat the powerhouse nation in a bilateral ODI series on India soil since the start of 2016

The series opener gets underway at 7pm AEDT.

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