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Injury history pushing Hardik Pandya to sacrifice Test cricket for white-ball career

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Indian cricket team all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who has struggled with injuries in the last few years, will reportedly call time on his Test cricket career.

The 28-year-old Baroda star made his Test debut against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2017, and scored a half-century in his maiden innings. It is worth noting that on this tour itself Hardik Pandya hit his first - and only - Test century in the third Test at Pallekele. The 96-ball 108 knock was laced with eight boundaries and seven sixes.

Hardik Pandya is also remembered for his magnificent 93 off 95 balls against South Africa in 2018, rescuing India when they were languishing at 76 for 5 in the 37th over to settle for a score of nearly 200. 

However, after amassing 271 runs in his first four Test innings, Hardik saw an eventual drop in scores and managed just two fifty-plus scores in the next 14 innings.

With 532 runs and 17 wickets in 11 Test appearances, Hardik Pandya is opting to sacrifice his Test career to prolong his opportunities in the T20 and ODI formats. His last Test match came against England at Southampton in 2018.

Hardik Pandya and his injuries: A timeline

Hardik’s tryst with injury problems began during the 2018 Asia Cup, when he was stretchered off with an acute lower back injury while bowling against Pakistan.

The all-rounder - who missed the home Test series against West Indies - was added to the squad for the last two Test matches against Australia. The inclusion happened on the back of selectors asking him to prove his fitness in Baroda’s Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai.

Between January 1, 2019 and November 20, 2020, Hardik Pandya has bowled 118 overs in the limited-overs format, claiming 19 wickets. These stats include his performances in the bilateral series against New Zealand, the 2019 ODI World Cup and the T20I series against South Africa at home.

Hardik underwent surgery in London in October 2019 and remained sidelined until November 2020, when he returned for the tour of Australia.

Since then, Hardik Pandya has bowled sporadically with just 50 overs under his belt in 13 innings. In due course, the 28-year-old, who also played a part in India’s T20 World Cup campaign earlier this year, has bagged seven wickets.

During the T20 World Cup, the all-rounder was sent for multiple scans after being hit on his right shoulder while batting in the opening match against Pakistan. However, he managed to feature in the Men in Blue’s remaining fixtures.

While his Test career numbers may seem fairly decent, Hardik Pandya’s worth in the limited-overs format champions his cause. The 28-year-old has tallied 1,286 runs and 57 wickets in 63 ODIs, while 553 runs and 42 wickets in T20Is.

Hardik has been a proven match-winner in white-ball cricket, especially for Team Mumbai in the Indian T20 League. In 92 matches for the five-time champions, the Baroda all-rounder registered 1,476 runs and 42 wickets, with his best bowling effort (3/20) coming against Chennai in the 2019 edition.

Hardik Pandya’s value as a batter knows no bounds, and that is evident from his 34-ball 91 against Kolkata albeit in a losing cause. But considering the knock came from a player who was still carrying a back injury, cricket fans could only remain in awe of his commitment to the game.

The 28-year-old’s role as a bowler has been reduced - as seen in recent months - owing to the burden on his body, and in case Hardik does steps away from Test cricket, his ideal replacement in the all-rounder slot for the Test team could be Shardul Thakur or Hanuma Vihari.

Author: William Paul

Featured photo: AFP / Glyn Kirk

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