It is reported that India’s selection panel led by former left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi was reluctant to pick Hardik Pandya and T Natarajan for the limited-over series against Australia.
The selectors didn’t want to select all-rounder Hardik Pandya as a specialist batsman as he didn’t bowl for Mumbai Indians in the IPL after his back surgery.
Furthermore, T Natarajan was picked only as a net bowler for the tour. However, when Varun Chakravarthy was ruled out of the Australia tour due to shoulder injury, the selectors couldn’t ignore Natarajan’s impressive performances in the IPL. The left-arm fast bowler had scalped 16 wickets in 16 matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad and had impressed with his abilities to nail the yorkers.
The selection of both these players turned out to be great as both of them played at the top of their game. Pandya was the team’s leading run-getter in the ODI series as he scored 210 runs in three matches whereas he scored 78 runs in the T20I series.
Pandya was awarded the Player of the match for scoring 92 runs in the third ODI and then scored another match winning knock of 42 runs off just 22 balls in the second T20I. The 27-year old was awarded the Player of the series in the shortest format of the game.
“The selectors, at least some, believed he can’t go because he can’t bowl. It was a surprise they didn’t see the kind of batting form he was in. It took some convincing to have Pandya included because if it was left to certain individuals, he was unlikely to,” sources in the know of things said as quoted by TOI.
On the other hand, T Natarajan was mighty impressive with his bowling performances. Natarajan had a decent ODI debut as he scalped two wickets. The 29-year old pacer’s best performance came in the second T20I when he conceded only 20 runs in his four overs and scalped two wickets.
Natarajan finished the three-match T20I series as a leading wicket-taker with six wickets as he bowled with an average 13.83 and an economy rate of 6.92.
“It was absolutely clear he would play the T20s after what they saw in the nets. The wicket of Mitchell Starc in the first game [T20I] cleared whatever little doubt was there…But Natarajan’s ability to bowl yorkers at will was so astonishing that there is no doubt he should’ve been a part of the T20 squad. Not just a net bowler. In the end, he got what he was deserving of,” the sources said.
In the end, the right selection decisions were taken as Hardik Pandya and T Natarajan were able to deliver the goods for the team.