The flamboyant Indian all-rounder, Hardik Pandya seems to be losing his place in the limited-overs setup especially, after India’s group-stage exit from the 2021 T20 World Cup. He has been failing to contribute both with bat and bowl for quite some time now. At the same time, Venkatesh Iyer’s stocks have skyrocketed. In the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, Iyer is enjoying a dream run as he has amazed 348 runs in four games.
Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim has also described Iyer as an ideal replacement for Hardik Pandya, who has been struggling to attain complete fitness after an acute lower-back injury. Karim also heaped praise on Gaikwad for his splendid performances with the bat.
Elaborating the same, during the Khelneeti podcast, Saba Karim said, “I believe that Venkatesh Iyer and Ruturaj Gaikwad have almost entered the first-team squad, and I’m talking about white-ball cricket. They should be given as much exposure as possible. Both these players provide a different spectrum for the team. Gaikwad can be the backup opener with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul going strong.”
He further elaborated, “On the other hand, Iyer has performed really well while batting at No. 5 or No. 6 in the Vijay Hazare trophy. If we are looking at the replacement for Hardik Pandya, we have already found the player.”
Saba Karim also reckons that head coach Rahul Dravid must have plans of making a core ahead of the World Cups, describing Iyer as an “all-format player” at the team management’s disposal. He also insisted on the entry of Gaikwad in the Test squad.
Explaining the same, Saba Karim said, “Rahul Dravid has seen these players for quite a while now. The way Dravid used to prepare as a player, he must be prepared in the same way as a coach. He must have thought about a core of 23-25 players in the white-ball cricket circuit. He must have started the preparation for the World Cups.”
Karim also added, “Venkatesh Iyer should definitely be part of the South Africa tour. He must then be tracked be in the Ranji Trophy as well because I believe he is an all-format player. It is also the time that Gaikwad is in contention for the Test squad.”