Hardik Pandya, India's stand-in captain for the T20 Internationals in New Zealand, was criticised for not giving game time to Sanju Samson despite the latter being in fantastic form in the T20 format. The Indian team, which was in New Zealand to play three T20 matches, won the series 1-0 after the third and final game ended in a tie via Duckworth-Lewis method following rain interruption.
Pandya, who took over the reins from Rohit Sharma after the T20 World Cup disappointing exit, was expected to bring in new bowlers and play more free-flowing batters. But many experts were surprised that Pandya overlooked Samson and Umran Malik in the XI.
But when the Indian skipper was asked about the squad, he said the team management's hands were tied as the series was a short one.
“This is my team, firstly. The coach [VVS Laxman] and I will pick the team we feel is right," he said after the series. "And there's a lot of time, everyone will get a chance, and when they do, they will get an extended run. But it's difficult since this was a short series. If it had been a long series, more players would have got a chance.
He added: “It was a short series, and I don't believe in chopping and changing much, and I won't in the future either. So it was simple, and had to do with what the team needed. I wanted a sixth bowling option. We got that here. Deepak (Hooda) bowled, and if batters chip in (with the ball) as he did. Eventually, in T20 cricket, there will be opportunities. And in a game, even if things are not going your way, you can mix things up by bringing in new bowlers, and surprise the batters."
The series was severely disrupted by rain. The first match could not be played as interrupted rains didn't let the match start. India won the second T20I match and defeated the Kiwis by 65 runs. The third T20I match between India and New Zealand ended in a tie according to DLS. Many players had very little or no game time.
As per experts, Samson and Gill were expected to play a good inning in the absence of the top three players, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli. Gill has never played T20I cricket, but Samson has, and has a T20I average of 44.75 in the past 12 months, was in good form. In ODIs in the same period, he averages 82.66.
Defending his call, Pandya said: "It's not difficult, but about how you handle it," Hardik said. "It's simple for me - I have the same sort of equation with all the players, and when I can't pick a player, he knows it's not personal. It's got to do with the situation. I am a peoples' person. So if anyone needs me, I will be there for them.”
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