VEDANT SHARMA | 24 JANUARY, 2019
Is Vijay Shankar the best man to replace him for the upcoming World Cup?
A 60 minute broadcast of the reality show Koffee With Karan may drive a paradigm shift in Indian cricket, if not beyond. For Hardik Pandya (25) and K.L.Rahul (26) at least, it has been downhill on the rollercoaster ever since. Both players are suspended, an inquiry is ongoing into their misogynist remarks, and Pandya has reportedly lost a major sponsorship deal.
The Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar was chosen as Pandya’s replacement. But is he the best option, keeping in mind that cricket’s most prestigious tournament, the ICC World Cup 2019, is just four months away?
There’s no doubt that 27-year-old Shankar has performed consistently for Tamil Nadu in all three formats of the game. But with a maximum of 10 ODIs left to play before the World Cup - five of them on Indian soil - the swashbuckler may not have enough time to prepare himself for the international arena.
Vijay Shankar made his debut in the 50-overs circuit against Australia and performed decently with the ball. However, he wasn't tested with the bat as both M.S.Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav played cracker innings to get India past the line.
On India’s next assignment, which is just a few days away, Shankar will be looking to put his best foot forward and make the management believe in him.
The coming series against the Kiwis will be Shankar’s only opportunity to adapt to overseas conditions. The extra bounce and swing will help the all-rounder express himself and prove his stature. Assuming he plays well in all five games, should he then be tested for the World Cup ahead of Hardik Pandya?
Sadly, to my mind the answer remains, no. After the 2015 World Cup, when the selection committee started looking for an all-rounder other than Stuart Binny, they invested their stakes in young Hardik Pandya, who has played well across formats the past few years, and earned his place in the regular squad.
Pandya’s experience playing in the ICC tournaments can’t be matched by Shankar, who for all his talent is still a rookie at this level.
Pandya has played international games and carries good IPL experience as well. With his all-around skills, he is also a good athlete who saves at least 5-10 runs in every game.
Keeping all this in mind, from a ‘purely’ cricketing standpoint it will be best to get Pandya back in the picture as soon as possible. After all he hasn’t played a match since September, against Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
To introduce Shankar, or reintroduce Pandya, just ahead of the World Cup won’t be the greatest of decisions.
The team management must be in a bind. With players like Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh coming out in condemnation of Pandya and Rahul’s televised remarks, it will be interesting to see if the BCCI accepts Pandya’s letter of apology, and lets him play while the inquiry is still on.