Hardik Pandya could give India a fresh challenge in the team composition during the ODI series in New Zealand. (Image credit: ICC Twitter)
Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s suspension was lifted by the Committee of Administrators on Thursday, giving them massive relief and paving the way for the duo to resume playing cricket. According to a BCCI media release, Pandya will fly to New Zealand at the earliest while Rahul will join the India A squad for the series against England Lions. If Karnataka manage to overcome Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy semi-final, it is reported that Rahul could play for the team in the final should they make it. Pandya will miss the second ODI in Mount Maunganui but he could be available for the third ODI which will be played on Monday at the same venue. However, it will be a big decision whether Pandya can immediately slot back in the Indian cricket team as he has not had a chance to play international cricket following a back injury which he sustained in the Asia Cup in 2018 which sidelined him for a couple of months.
Pandya’s inclusion comes at a time when Indian skipper Virat Kohli has been rested for the final two One Day International matches against New Zealand in the five-match ODI series. He will also be missing the three-match T20 series against New Zealand, starting on February 6. The BCCI declared that Rohit Sharma will be captain of the Indian side in Kohli’s absence. In a statement, the BCCI said, “Considering his workload in the last few months, the team management and senior selection committee is of the view that it would be ideal for him to get adequate rest ahead of the home series against Australia. There will be no replacement for Kohli in the squad for the New Zealand series.”
With Pandya joining the squad and with Kohli being rested, the team composition for the third, fourth and fifth games against New Zealand will be interesting. Will the team management get Pandya in for Kohli? Will Rohit risk slotting Pandya in the lower-middle order and push MS Dhoni to number four? With Kohli out after the ODIs in Mount Maunganui, who occupies the No.3 slot will be vital for India in the series. India currently lead the five-match series 1-0 after hammering New Zealand by eight wickets in Napier.
Pandya and Rahul's crass comments on the show 'Koffee With Karan', where they spoke about hooking up with multiple women, were criticised by one and all and led to a social media storm. While Diana Edulji wanted the BCCI office-bearers to be involved in deciding the fate of the two cricketers, CoA chief Vinod Rai had dismissed the suggestion as it would have been in violation of the Board constitution. The CoA said the decision to suspend the two was taken under "Rule 46 of the approved BCCI Constitution", which covers players' conduct that can bring the Board into disrepute.
The idea of letting the players get on with the game was first mooted by BCCI acting president CK Khanna, who wanted the suspensions to be lifted pending inquiry. In fact, Khanna refused to convene a Special General Meeting (SGM), which was the demand of at least 14 affiliated units. Most of these officials have allegiance to former board president N Srinivasan. "I did not wish this issue to turn into an administrative mess. For me, it was paramount that Hardik and Rahul return to action and inquiry can also simultaneously continue. If Ben Stokes could continue playing while the court case was on, why can't that be applicable for Pandya and Rahul," Khanna said. "I did not convene the SGM as it was against the laws stated in the BCCI constitution. Hardik and Rahul have been punished enough and they will emerge as better human beings. For now, the focus should be on winning World Cup where Hardik might play a massive part.”
"The above matter and decision has been taken with the concurrence of the Learned Amicus Curiae, Mr. P.S. Narasimha. In view of the above, the suspension orders dated 11.01.2019 is immediately lifted pending appointment and adjudication of the allegations by the BCCI Ombudsman," read a statement from the CoA, issued by the BCCI which resulted in the suspension of the two players being lifted.
Karan Johar, the host of Koffee With Karan, also pleaded for a closure. "I feel very responsible because it was my show, it was my platform. I have had so many so many sleepless nights just wondering about how I can undo this damage, who is gonna listen to me," he had told 'ET Now'. The CoA has also decided to introduce a behavioural counselling programme for all representative national teams. Pandya and Rahul are expected to attend these classes with the senior team which will also have sessions on gender sensitisation.