Indian cricket team coach Anil Kumble on Sunday said youngster Hardik Pandya who has been selected in the Test squad for the upcoming series against England will have all the liberty to express himself in the longest form of the game.
The 23-year-old was picked for the five-Test match series after impressive performances in recent T20 and One-Day international matches. Pandya already has 19 international wickets and 123 runs from 20 games.
“He is an extremely talented player. When he first came into IPL, he showed what he’s capable of; I think the potential Hardik has, has been seen by all. When he bowled in Dharamsala and batted in Delhi (against New Zealand), one could see that he’s a quality player. That’s why we are backing him in this series as well,” Kumble said at a pre-match media conference.
“We all understand the importance of an all-rounder, as a fifth bowler and bat in the lower order, that’s a great option to have. We don’t want to put too much pressure on him, he will have all the freedom to express himself and not worry about Test cricket, whenever he gets the opportunity.”
“He is a quality player whom we will back and yes, he will only get better. The more he plays, better he will get and it’s a nice thing to have an all-rounder in the squad.”
Kumble also spoke about newcomer Karun Nair who has just played in two ODIs for India so far. The Karnataka batsman has scored heavily in the domestic circuit and has been roped in as a value addition to India’s top order which is missing key batsmen due to injuries.
“Karun has done all the hard yards in domestic cricket; he’s scored heavily, regularly and consistently. There was a bit of talk about him not performing for India ‘A’ in Australia, but what we are looking at is consistency and that’s why he was part of the squad against New Zealand. After that he’s got runs in the Ranji Trophy. So Rohit’s absence has opened an opportunity for Karun, but we have not decided on the combination to play with,” Kumble said.
“Karun is someone we have kept a close eye on. I am sure he will get an opportunity. And when he goes out to bat, we will back him to score runs the same way he has done for Karnataka.”
Speaking about the preparations for the first Test, the 46-year-old said,”We had a break of four or five days after the series against New Zealand. We are playing a five-Test series after a long time. We are happy with our preparation.”
He said the team was disappointed to have lost someone like Rohit Sharma due to injury.
“Obviously disappointed with some of the injuries that has happened, but then it (injury) is part and parcel of the game. I feel sad, especially for Rohit (Sharma) because he was really doing well in the Test format (against New Zealand).”
The former Indian leg-spinner also added that they have not settled on the team combination yet and would only finalize the playing XI after assessing the conditions at Rajkot.
“We still have not figured out the combination (for the first Test); everyone is available. With Hardik (Pandya) being part of the squad, we have more options. This is the first Test that will happen at Rajkot. India has played One-Day cricket and Twenty20 here. But we don’t know how the wicket will behave in a Test match. It looks a good surface. We still have a couple of days to decide the team for the Test match,” he said.
England are a quality side this time believes Kumble
Kumble also spoke at length about the England side saying they will look to negate threats like Alastair Cook and Joe Root.
“We certainly look at the opposition and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Having said that England are a quality side. Alastair Cook has been here a number of occasions. He’s a quality player at the top and that’s something we will be looking at. There is Joe Root and also their bowling attack is something that has troubled us in the past. What we would like to focus on is what we can do, and how we can measure up to and that’s how we played against New Zealand.”
Adding to it, Kumble said,”It’s a totally different England team that’s here. Some of them may have played in the last series here, but it’s a totally different series for us. We have played seven Test matches in a row and we have seen the development of the team in the last seven matches; that’s healthy and every player is looking forward to the five-Test series. One can look at the past records the way you want to, but for us, immediate performance really matters and that’s the confidence we would like to take in the series.”
Communication is of prime importance says, Kumble
Lastly, Kumble also stressed on the need of communicating with players saying that it is very important to have everyone on the loop.
“Communication is very important when winning and losing and also with the injured players. So I know exactly what goes through in a player’s mind. We all want the team to do well and the player who has replaced also to do well. But it’s important that we keep all of them in the loop. It’s unfortunate that K.L. Rahul who has performed brilliantly in all three formats is missing out, we are hoping that he will come back soon. So with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shikhar Dhawan and as I said, a big blow for Rohit, the timing of the injuries have not been ideal for him.
“We will keep them motivated. They also realise that it’s an occupational hazard. When you are injured, the important thing for a coach is not to look at them to come back quickly, because that’s not going to help that particular individual. It’s important that they are 100 per cent fit and probably find that out in a domestic game.”