All-rounder Hardik Pandya is raring to go once again as he gets ready to make his India return in the upcoming series against South Africa.
The 25-year-old was rested for India’s recent tour of the West Indies following his exertions in the IPL and the 2019 World Cup but he is now fully recharged to get back into the thick of things.
“The break was important for me as the IPL was long and then the World Cup followed,” Pandya told Indian news agency IANS.
“I had a good run in both tournaments. That required my body to take some rest, as precaution is better than cure.
“That is when the call was taken by the team management that I come back fully fit for the South Africa series. Neither the team management nor I wish that I get injured. The rest has helped me a lot and my fitness has gone to the next level.”
Pandya had an excellent individual campaign at the World Cup in England where he picked up 10 wickets with the ball while chipping in with 226 runs with the bat. However, it ended painfully for both India and Pandya with the Men in Blue crashing out of the tournament after a semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
While admitting that the semi-final exit was a bitter pill to swallow, Pandya has already trained his eyes on the 2020 World Cup which takes place in Australia next year.
“The loss was difficult and we all felt the same pain, but life moves on,” he said.
“I would have been more upset if we as a team hadn’t done justice to our performance. We played as champions and except for those 30 minutes, I thought we played outstandingly and everyone was contributing and looking to excel. It is just how it is at the knockout stage.
“We have kind of moved on and we want to focus on the next World Cup and win that.”
The all-rounder will now hope to impress on his comeback when the three-match T20 series between India and South Africa gets underway. The first of the three clashes is due to take place in Dharamsala on Sunday.
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Joe Root has called on England to send outgoing head coach Trevor Bayliss on his way “with a real big bang” by drawing the Ashes at The Oval.
This week marks the end of the series, the end of the international summer and the end of Bayliss’ four-year reign.
His time in charge is destined to be remembered for a phenomenal improvement in white-ball cricket, capped off by this summer’s World Cup win at Lord’s, while the Test side has struggled to touch the same heights.
Having won the Ashes in his first series in charge, Bayliss will watch his native Australia lift the urn in his last but England can still deny them the satisfaction of a first outright victory on these shores since 2001.
“We need to celebrate what Trevor has done throughout his tenure and as players we need to send him off with a real big bang,” said Root.
“He has had a massive influence here and he will be sorely missed by all the players that have had a chance to work with him.”
England have made two alterations to the side that went down fighting at Old Trafford last week, with Jason Roy and Craig Overton axed in favour of Sam Curran and Chris Woakes.
Roy’s ousting at his home ground is the most significant decision, but owes as much to Ben Stokes’ injured right shoulder as it does to his run of low scores.
Hopes were high that the batsman could transfer his dominant performances in the one-day arena to Test whites but, in averaging 13.75 in eight innings, he was the most vulnerable when it became clear Stokes’ bowling would be compromised in the coming days.
That made his fellow all-rounder, Curran, a must-pick and forced an early end to the Roy experiment.
“Jason is the unfortunate one to miss out,” said Root.
“He is very aware of where he is at and what he needs to do to get himself in the best place to perform in Test cricket. He’s had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it, and it has not gone quite how he would have liked.
“But I’m sure he will go away and work extremely hard and come again. That is what you expect of guys when they get left out and I’m sure he will have that attitude and want to try and prove a point and get himself back into the side.”
Australia have confirmed at least one change of their own, with Mitch Marsh replacing Travis Head in the middle order. Captain Tim Paine has made it quite clear he is gunning for a 3-1 scoreline and is not happy to settle for less.
“We’re very hungry for this, we’ve already spoken about the fact that we came here to win the Ashes not just retain them,” said Paine.
“Last week’s result was brilliant and we played very well but all our guys are fully aware this Test is bigger than that one. This is our grand final.”
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Former skipper Mark Taylor expects Steve Smith to lead Australia once again in the future despite his tainted history.
Smith was stripped of his Australia captaincy and handed a one-year suspension from international and domestic cricket for his role in the infamous ball-tampering saga in South Africa last year. The top-order batsman was handed a further one-year suspension from all leadership positions as well and will only become eligible for Australia captaincy once again in March next year.
The right-hander has since completed a sensational return to Test cricket with a staggering 671 runs in just five innings in the ongoing Ashes to lead Australia’s charge in England. Taylor, who was part of the panel to recommend Smith’s quantum of punishment last year, feels that the batsman will be a much stronger leader if given another chance.
“I believe Smith will captain Australia again,” the former Australia captain wrote in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I was on the Cricket Australia board that determined the penalties for Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft over the events of Cape Town and have no doubt he will be a better leader next time around because of the very harsh lessons he learnt.”
Australia are currently being led by Tim Paine who stands on the verge of becoming the first visiting skipper since Steve Waugh in 2001 to win an Ashes series on English soil. Paine was elevated to the Australia captaincy in the most unexpected of manners following the ball-tampering fall out at Cape Town last year.
Taylor expects Smith to be in the running to become the next Australia captain once 34-year-old Paine hangs up his boots.
“To me it’s not a matter of whether he (Smith) becomes captain again on April 1. It doesn’t have to happen that quickly,” he said.
“But I’d like to think when Paine is finished as Test captain – whether that’s in six months’ time or two or three years – he would be a candidate to lead the side again.”
Smith and Paine will be in action for Australia on Thursday when the fifth and final Ashes Test against England gets underway at the Oval.