Hardik Pandya. Photograph:( AFP )
Due to Hardik Pandya's injury issues, Team India need an all-rounder to fill in his shoes. Ex-India wicketkeeper-batsman has named Pandya's replacement.
Hardik Pandya hasn't been firing on all cylinders ever since cricket resumed in the post-pandemic era. The 27-year-old lost his place in the Test line-up for not being able to bowl -- due to back issues -- and has managed to contribute with only a handful of overs for the Men in Blue and Mumbai Indians (MI) with the white ball in hand.
Hence, his place in the limited-overs side is also very much up for grabs. On the other hand, Kolkata Knight Riders' (KKR) wonder boy Venkatesh Iyer's stocks have seen a sharp rise following his breakthrough season in IPL 2021. While he was included in India's T20I line-up for the NZ series at home, the swashbuckling left-hander is delivering at the domestic level as well.
Iyer, who is representing Madhya Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, has been in stellar form and has amassed 348 runs in four outings, including scores of 112, 71 and 151. Thus, he is the second-highest run-getter -- only behind Maharastra's Ruturaj Gaikwad -- and is being considered as a replacement for Hardik in the limited-overs setup for the South Africa tour.
In this regard, former Indian keeper-batsman and selector Saba Karim has named the KKR opener as Hardik's like-for-like replacement in India's ODI and T20I setup. He has also called for Ruturaj's inclusion in ODIs and Tests. "I believe that Venkatesh Iyer and Ruturaj Gaikwad have almost entered the first-team squad, and I'm talking about white-ball cricket. If we have to start the preparation for the 2023 World Cup, these two players should be part of the squad as soon as possible.
"They should be given as much exposure as possible. Both these players provide a different spectrum for the team. Gaikwad can be the backup opener with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul going strong. On the other hand, Iyer has performed really well while batting at No. 5 or No. 6 in the Vijay Hazare trophy. If we are looking at the replacement for Hardik Pandya, we have already found the player," Karim said on the Khelneeti podcast.
Karim also opined that Indian head coach Rahul Dravid needs to start creating a core set of players in the white-ball formats, with plenty of ICC events lined-up every year.
"Rahul Dravid has seen these players for quite a while now. The way Dravid used to prepare as a player, he must be prepared in the same way as a coach. He must have thought about a core of 23-25 players in the white-ball cricket circuit. He must have started the preparation for the World Cups Venkatesh Iyer should definitely be part of the South Africa tour. He must then be tracked be in the Ranji Trophy as well because I believe he is an all-format player. It is also the time that Gaikwad is in contention for the Test squad," Karim further added.
At present, India is preparing for their departure to South Africa, where they are scheduled to play three Tests and equal number of ODIs. The tour opener will commence in Centurion on December 26 with the Test series followed by the ODIs.
Rohit Sharma will lead the limited-overs side whereas Virat Kohli will continue as the Test captain.