Former India star batsman VVS Laxman prefers all-rounder Hardik Pandya over Karun Nair in the playing XI for the first Test match against England, considering his all-round skill sets.
Laxman is a firm believer of the “five bowler theory” and wants Pandya to open the bowling with Mohammed Shami, with Amit Mishra playing as the third specialist spinner.
“I like the five-bowler theory. Especially the depth of this Indian team. Ashwin is in good (batting) form, Wriddhiman Saha in good form, Ravindra Jadeja is in good form. I would love to see Amit Mishra in action for the way in which he bowled against New Zealand. He is a proven match-winner, three quality spinners can put a lot of pressure on this England batting line-up,” Laxman told PTI during an interaction organised by the Star Sports on the eve of the England series.
Laxman gave an elaborate explanation as to why he wants Pandya in place as he feels that he can share the new ball with Shami.
“I think that (Pandya with new ball) can be an option and that’s one of the reasons that he has been drafted into the team. With Hardik, he is bowling at more than 140 kmph now, he is now more consistent in his line and length. He can also give those 10 or 15 overs that the other fast bowlers can give. Hardik will definitely be my choice,” said Laxman.
As for the lone specialist fast bowler, Shami is his choice for his ability to reverse the old ball.
“There will be reverse swing in Indian conditions. The dryness of the wicket will definitely scruff off the ball. I would start with Shami as I was really impressed with the way he bowled during the New Zealand series, so I would definitely go with Shami.”
Laxman interested to find out how effective England’s premier pacer Jimmy Anderson will be as he won’t have quality support from the other end like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
“Jimmy Anderson is a very experienced bowler but coming back from injury will put a lot of strain on him. We have to watch how much of a workload he can take. Also Anderson in England and India are two different propositions. Although he did well 2012 but he had support from Swann and Panesar. He used to come and bowl in short bursts. With that support not being there, we have to see how much impact Jimmy Anderson can have on this series.”
Laxman termed Ben Stokes as the x-factor for the England team while also wanting to see Jos Buttler purely play as a batsman.
“Ben Stokes is the ‘X-Factor’ that England has got. He is a match-winner both with the bat and the ball. But I would also like to see Jos Buttler play as a specialist batsman. Jonny Bairstow has done well both with bat and gloves but Buttler has got right approach to pressurise Indian spinners rather than playing a subdued game. So I think Jos Buttler can also make an impact.”
For Laxman, Moeen Ali will have to play the role of a restrictive spinner with pacers attacking from the other end.
“I think Moeen and Gareth Batty are not in the same league as Swann and Panesar. But at the same time when you are playing international cricket, it is important to give respect to each and every bowler you play.
“I think Moeen has performed well within his limitations, Gareth Batty is making comeback at 39. Adil Rashid is still inexperienced. A lot will depend on how Moeen controls one end. What we saw in Bangladesh was that England were not able to control the flow of runs, and economy rate was more than 4 runs per over. A lot will depend on how fast bowlers bowl and then Moeen has to do the containing job from one end.”
The batting will heavily hinge on the performance that Alastair Cook and Joe Root can put.
“A lot will depend on how Alastair Cook and Joe Root bat in this series. Both of them are experienced and Joe Root along with Virat Kohli are the two most exciting batsmen in world cricket. He can play spin well, so does Cook. The defensive technique of the England batsmen will be tested. I feel Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali can have impact as far as batting is concerned.”
Ravichandran Ashwin’s performance also augurs well for the Indian team.
“Way Ashwin has been bowling for last two years consistently picking up five-wicket hauls, winning matches for team, it augurs well for India.”