Hardik Pandya has been fighting a long and tough battle with his body. The Baroda all-rounder has not been able to recover from the back injury he sustained long back in 2018. He got his chances but could not do much for his team and now India is suddenly sort of a fine fast-bowling all-rounder. Even if Hardik plays purely as a batter, he does not have the numbers to back himself. This has left the selectors with no other option but to look for Hardik Pandya's replacements and it seems they finally have a few names to discuss.
Venkatesh Iyer is the first name that is being touted as Pandya's replacement and the Madhya Pradesh cricketer has proven why. However, the selectors would not repeat their mistake of backing a single name as they did with Pandya. Although they might argue there wasn't one. But now is the time India looks at the possible replacements for Hardik Pandya.
Here are five players who can prove to be a good replacement for Hardik Pandya.
1. Venkatesh Iyer
Venkatesh Iyer has been doing well in the domestic circuit for a long time now but had to go through another test i.e. the IPL. And Iyer passed this test with flying colors. He was phenomenal for Kolkata Knight Riders and turned their fortunes around in the second leg of IPL 2022. His bowling is yet to be tested, but whatever he has done till now shows that he is a good bowler too.
In the 2021-22 Vijay Hazare Trophy, Iyer amassed 379 runs in 6 games at an average of 63.16 and a strike rate of 133.92. He also took 9 wickets with an economy rate of 5.75. Iyer has been included in the ODI squad for South Africa and his performances there will determine whether he will be a regular in the Indian team or not.
Also Read: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW | Overwhelmed with so much expectations: Venkatesh Iyer opens up ahead of ODI series against South Africa
2. Rishi Dhawan
One name that rocked the 2021-22 Vijay Hazare tournament was Himachal Pradesh's captain Rishi Dhawan. The all-rounder not only finished the tournament with the second-most number of wickets and second most number of runs but also led his team to the maiden VHT title. Dhawan aggregated 458 runs at an average of 76.33 and a strike rate of 127.22. He claimed 17 wickets @23.35 and with an economy rate of 6.00. The numbers just put validation to the fact that Rishi Dhawan is a great all-rounder and can be considered as one of Hardik Pandya replacements.
3. Shardul Thakur
Well, Thakur leads the race when it comes to replacing Pandya, especially in Tests. Shardul Thakur has impressed everyone with his performances in overseas Tests. In a very short time, he has developed faith and confidence. Even in the ongoing South Africa series, he took a 7-wicket haul at Johannesburg and consolidated his place in the team. Shardul Thakur has a knack of taking wickets against the run of play which can really help India in the longest format. The Maharashtra-born cricketer has picked 77 wickets and scored 408 runs in a short 45-match international career.
4. Vijay Shankar
The Tamil Nadu cricketer has long been in the race to replace Hardik Pandya but has failed to grab the opportunities. However, he has been around for some time now and knows what it takes to make it into the national side. Plus, he has had a decent run in domestic circuit recently. He led his team to the Syed Mushtaq Ali finals and won it. In VHT as well, Tamil Nadu played the finals under Shankar's leadership.
5. Shahrukh Khan
Shahrukh Khan has now established himself as a finisher in the domestic circuit and who can forget his match-winning six against Karnataka in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. In Vijay Hazare Trophy too, he took the bowlers to cleaners and amassed 253 runs from eight games at a strike rate of 186.02. If Hardik Pandya is being seen as a finisher only (as it was said during the T20 World Cup), Shahrukh Khan is well in line to replace the Baroda cricketer.