Pandya, who is performing for the role of a seaming all-rounder for India in the ongoing Test series against England, has been compared to the legendary Indian all-rounder ever since he made his international debut.
However, Gavaskar, a former team-mate of Kapil Dev, has rubbished the comparisons.
“Kapil Dev should not be compared with anyone. He is not just a once-in-a-generation player but a once-in-a century cricketer just like Sir Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar. We should not compare him with anyone,” Gavaskar told Aaj Tak during a show.
Pandya was the second highest run-scorer for India in the Edgbaston Test with his two innings combined fetching a total of 53 runs.
The collective failure of India’s batting unit apart from skipper Virat Kohli was the primary cause of their 31-run defeat at Edgbaston. While commenting on India’s batting woes, Gavaskar was tore into opener Shikhar Dhawan over the manner of his dismissals.
“Shikhar simply does not want to change his game. He believes in playing in the same manner which has brought him success till now. You can still get away with such shots in one-day cricket because there aren’t many slips and the push or the edge goes for a boundary through the slip cordon,” the 69-year-old stated.
“But in Tests, such shots will only result in a wicket. Until a player makes a mental adjustment, he will continue to struggle against the red ball in overseas conditions,” he added.
England and India will now lock horns in the second of the five Tests at Lord’s on August 9.
After the 2015 World Cup, England decided to focus almost all their energy on white-ball and especially one-day international cricket. Finding the right players and giving captain Eoin Morgan complete freedom to play without fear saw England rise to No1 in the rankings, emerging as the best all-round ODI team in the world and serious contenders for their maiden 50-over world title next year at home.
But that has come at a price. As England’s fortunes in limited-overs action have risen, their results in Test cricket have stumbled. The former No1 team in the world are now down to fifth. Before the start of the Birmingham Test, England had won just two out of 10 Tests. There were 4-0 losses in India and Australia.
England, who invented the game, suddenly were found wanting in the format that had become almost synonymous with English-ness.
The lesson learnt here is no matter how good you are or you think you are, you can never take it for granted. Which is something India are currently finding out with their Test batting.
This is the same Indian team that up until a few years back had icons like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly in the Test side. Runs were almost always guaranteed. And even if the batting failed, it would pick itself up almost immediately and get back on track.
But the current Indian batting truly has become a one man show. According to ESPNcricinfo, since the start of the 2017-18 season, Virat Kohli has scored 31 per cent of the team’s runs in seven Tests. It is either Kohli or nothing, especially in overseas matches.
It’s not a coincidence that the fall in batting levels has coincided with the shift in focus towards developing a potent and all-round Test bowling attack. India have long struggled to have a pool of match ready bowlers who can take 20 wickets in most conditions. However, having an attacking bowling line-up fit perfectly with Kohli and Ravi Shastri’s vision of a fearless Team India. And that vision has been realised.
But what was once a given as far as batting is concerned has become a stumbling block. India’s batting, apart from Kohli, has no structure to it nor is adequate care given to nurturing batsmen, especially compared to how well the bowlers are being looked after.
The way a proven performer like Cheteshwar Pujara was pushed into improving his scoring rate, which then resulted in him completely losing his game, to the manner in which Ajinkya Rahane has lost confidence even away from home is all down to this overarching fixation on attacking cricket. Yes you need attacking bowlers to take 20 wickets and intent to score at a fair pace. But you also need solid anchors who can weather the storm when the going gets tough. Which is what Pujara and Rahane do in the Indian team. And this is exactly what the Indian management has failed to appreciate over the past few seasons.
Not only them, other such players who graft their runs are likely to fail to catch the eye of the team. Which is probably why a Mayank Agarwal hasn’t been selected to the Test team yet despite scoring more than 2,000 runs in domestic cricket last season.
India now have a fine bowling line-up led by a captain who who wants to attack every session and never backs down. That mentality, unfortunately, has seeped into batting and unless they realise the importance of a calming influence in the middle-order, they will continue to fall short when the stakes are really high; they failed to chase 176 in the 2015 Galle Test, failed to chase down 208 in Cape Town earlier in the year and now 194 in Birmingham.
Attack is not always the best option.
Assured batting at the top of the order is in short supply in Indian cricket at the moment. India‘s Test team batting seems to be all about Virat Kohli with the rest of the line-up struggling to come close to him even collectively.
Cheteshwar Pujara, long seen as one of the most solid red-ball batsmen in the country, is now surplus to the team’s needs while those who had been backed to do well – like Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane – looked like a shadow of their former self in the first Test against England in Birmingham.
India’s batting is a serious headache at the moment as after a long time, they have the bowling to take 20 wickets cheaply on any surface that promises a result. Captain Kohli is batting on a different plane, scoring 200 himself at Edgbaston while their rest of the players accounted for 214.
The unimpressive technique of opener Shikhar Dhawan and the indifferent batting of KL Rahul means India are struggling. And as they look for a way to stop the bleeding, they should at least consider the next best options – Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal.
Prithvi Shaw is scoring consistently and at a great pace. Many were worried about his technique but he seems to be on a roll. Time to try him out as an opener for Team India? Let us not forget Mayank Agarwal also.. #IndiaA— Gaurav Sundararaman (@gaurav_sundar) August 5, 2018
The two batsmen are not part of the Test squad for the first three Tests and instead are fighting it out for the India ‘A’ team. Opener Shaw, who captained the Indian team to the Under-19 World Cup title earlier in the year, cracked 136 against South Africa ‘A’ in the ongoing unofficial Test in Bengaluru while adding 277 for the opening stand with Agarwal who himself scored a majestic 220.
Shaw has taken his tally to seven centuries in just 13 first-class matches with five fifties and already averages more than 57 since his debut last year. Agarwal, on the other hand, has now scored four centuries in his last eight matches – which include List A matches in England. Also, Agarwal finished the 2017-18 domestic season in India with 2,141 runs for his state Karnataka.
With India’s batting, apart from Kohli, looking clueless in English conditions, maybe it’s time to have a look at one of these two or both as top-ranked India can’t afford to see the same players fail over and over again.
Beyond Vijay, Dhawan and Rahul, it's now pretty clear the next in line are Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw. Both have impressed in every opportunity they've got. Priyank Panchal had a bumper 2016-17 season, but has fallen off a little since then.— Shashank Kishore (@captainshanky) August 5, 2018