'He has the game to perform in Test cricket' - Watson calls for Hardik Pandya's comeback
An injury spree led by a career-threatening back trouble and extensive workload may have forced Hardik Pandya to reserve his energies for white-ball cricket but Australian giant Shane Watson believes there is Test cricket left in the Indian allrounder.
Watson called for Pandya, India's premier fast-bowling allrounder in ODIs and T20Is, to consider making a comeback to Test match cricket. The former Aussie cricketer reckons the Baroda maverick has the capabilities to be a consistent player of influence in India's fortunes in the red-ball game.
It has been nearly four and a half years since Hardik Pandya last played a Test match for India. Upon returning from the 2018 tour of England, the cricketer travelled to UAE for the Asia Cup where he went down with a serious back issue. Ever since then, he has been confined to the white-ball game, focusing entirely on putting the back troubles behind him and maximising his white-ball potential.
Watson reckons, however, that with the player overcoming his fitness and injury issues finally, the time has come for him consider pushing for a comeback to Test cricket for India. Like former Aussie captain Ian Chappell, Watson believes Pandya's return would bolster India's balance and overall resources.
Watson calls for Pandya's Test comeback
"If his body can handle the rigours of Test cricket then absolutely," Watson told Hindustan Times at the sidelines of the Legends League Cricket tournament in Doha. "He has got incredible skills even with his batting alone. He has got a very very sound batting technique."
"Yes, he is a power-hitter of the ball but everyone has seen him move up the batting order in T20 cricket, batting at No.4 for Gujarat Lions. Even in ODIs, he is not just a power-hitter. So from just batting perspective, he has got the game to perform in Test cricket," he added.
Watson said the key to Pandya's Test comeback would be how his bowling holds up to the demands of the longest format again. The retired Australian opener, who too could produce useful medium fast-bowling for his team, said the physical fatigue and being ready to go through the excess strain will be crucial for Pandya to determine.
"Bowling wise, if he is fit he charges in and he has got great skill. He can swing the brand new ball away and he would provide a huge impact for the Indian Test team. For me it eventually comes down to his body and whether it can handle the rigours of playing Test cricket as a fast-bowling all-rounder."
"I would love to see him push the limits as an all-rounder and cricketer when it comes to playing all formats of the game because he is one of the special talents in world cricket," Watson added.