New Delhi, June 27: Former India cricketer and former member of the All India Selection Committee Sarandeep Singh reckons Hardik Pandya still has a lot to prove to get into contention for a permanent captaincy role of the national team.
Hardik - who is leading the T20I side in the two-match series in Ireland - was appointed the captain in the absence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant due to various reasons. Rohit and Pant are part of the Test squad for England tour while Rahul is nursing an injury.
The 42-year-old former India off-spinner from Punjab said Hardik has to first prove his fitness in the ODIs only then he could be a part of the side when speaking to MyKhel on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi.
The Baroda cricketer - who led Gujarat Titans to IPL 2022 title - isn't bowling his full quota of overs in the T20s and for him to get selected he'll have to bowl regularly.
Sarandeep - who has played 2 Tests and 5 ODIs for India - said, "I feel Hardik Pandya has proven his fitness only in the T20s. Even in the T20s he's not completing his full quota of four overs, so he'll have to prove his mettle as a bowler.
"For him to make a comeback in the ODI side, he'll have to bowl full quota of 10 overs only then he could be included in the side as an all-rounder because we can't afford to play one bowler short if Hardik doesn't bowl.
"No one knows about future, he's in good form with the bat but for him to be handed over the responsibility of leading the side, the Baroda cricketer will have to prove his all-round ability.
"Also, we have a few players in contention for captaincy if Rohit isn't around. There is KL Rahul who is sitting out due to injury, he could be the captain as well. So, let's not think too much about that."
The former cricketer also claimed that Test skipper Rohit Sharma testing positive for COVID-19 just days ahead of the Edgbaston Test against England is a big setback.
Talking about the impact the Mumbaikar's absence will have in the one-off Test, Singh said, "Rohit Sharma testing positive for COVID-19, just days ahead of the Test match is indeed a big setback for Team India. He's not just an opener but also the captain of the team and you need your key players available in big games.
"The selection committee still has time and can a back-up opener can fly to England. Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw could be the options for the Test match. Ideally, we shouldn't ask a middle-order batter to open the innings as there is still time."
Asked if Indian team management can contemplate going with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the Test against England, the former off-spinner claimed a lot depends on the pitch and weather conditions but Jadeja has an edge over Ashwin if there is an option to go with just one tweaker.
"The conditions in England play a big role in selection of spinners in the playing XI. If the conditions are overcast and the track on offer is a green top then you can only go with one spinner, in that case Ravindra Jadeja becomes the first-choice tweaker.
"Jadeja has done well in the past, he's a brilliant batter and best fielder in the side. So, if the conditions allow you to go with just one spinner then Ravindra Jadeja will be my first choice. But if you talk about Ravichandran Ashwin, he's a world class spinner.
"A bowler with 400-plus Test wickets has done well and deserves to be in the playing eleven anytime but if you look at the Test series between England and New Zealand. The English are playing with just one spinner in the series and in such a scenario, Jadeja will get a preference over Ashwin," he added further.
Although the team management hasn't yet announced a captain in Rohit's absence but pacer Jasprit Bumrah being the vice-captain of the side will lead if the regular skipper isn't available.
Bumrah will be the first seamer after Kapil Dev to lead India if that happens and on this the 42-year-old said, "It would be a proud moment for Jasprit Bumrah if he gets to lead the national side. But it will also mean more responsibility for Bumrah.
"Earlier, he could stand at fine leg or third man after completing his over or went out of the field to get some rest. But that will change, he'll have to stay on the ground for all five days and prepare game plans not just for himself but for the entire bowling attack.
"But that was going to happen with Bumrah sooner or later because he was appointed the vice-captain of the side. I would like to convey my best wishes to the Indian team because even a draw will ensure they'll win the series."
Singh also hailed the performance of Madhya Pradesh as they won their maiden Ranji Trophy title on Sunday (June 26) in Bengaluru. The former cricketer claimed the domestic cricket in India isn't just about Mumbai and Karnataka and commended the rise of other state teams.
"Madhya Pradesh cricketers had been doing well in the last few years. Avesh Khan is already playing for the national side, and four-five of their players have been a regular members of India A side.
"This proves that the graph of MP cricket was on the rise and this win in Ranji Trophy further proves it. Their win shows that Ranji Trophy isn't just about cricketing powerhouses like Mumbai and Karnataka infact any team that plays positive brand of cricket can be the champions," he signed off.