Australia. Warm-up match. Brabourne Stadium. A mere mention is enough to turn the clock back to 1998 when Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai destroyed the Australians in the tour game and Mark Taylor’s team could never really recover from the early blow for the rest of the tour.
Well, the India-A outfit that will take on the Australians in a three-day game from Friday here may not be as strong as that Mumbai team 19 years ago, but Hardik Pandya — who would be leading a team for the first time in his career and is also the lone member of India’s Test squad — is hoping he and his teammates would achieve a dual objective over the next three days.
“This is a great opportunity for everyone in the team to show what they are capable of. This is an opportunity to do something amazing that will send across a good impression to the selectors,” Pandya said after India-A’s training session on Thursday afternoon.
“If the visiting team is not able to do well against an A team, it always creates doubts in their mind if they can do well against the main team. Everyone in this team has scored enough runs or taken enough wickets to be part of this team. Australia is an experienced team and I hope this will be a very competitive game.” As much as it is an opportunity for the young turks like Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant and Mohammed Siraj to knock on the selectors’ door, the game will also present Pandya to enhance his reputation as a longer-version cricketer.
On the back of his impressive outing in the limited-over cricket and for India-A in Australia last year, Pandya has been persisted with in the India squad all through the long season of Test cricket.
The Indian management is looking at him as a potential pace-bowling all-rounder, a void in India’s line-up for more than two decades.
Over the last six months, Pandya has appeared to have mellowed down quite a bit these days. Is that a conscious effort on his part? “In term of my work ethics, I am more focused now.
“My eating, sleeping, work-out habits have changed. Everything is being monitored and that has helped a lot,” he said.
“I am stronger now, I am eating better — more boiled food — now, I sleep around 9.30-10 p.m. I’m reading the game better. The processes are better now. Cricket is something very important to me and this is the right time I focus on it.”
The teams (from):
Australia: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Steve O’Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Swepson.
India-A: Hardik Pandya (capt), Akhil Herwadkar, Priyank Panchal, Shreyas Iyer, Ankeet Bawne, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan (wk), Shahbaz Nadeem, K. Gowtham, Navdeep Saini, Ashok Dinda, Mohammed Siraj, Rahul Singh and B. Indrajith.