Hardik Pandya India
Apart from his lower order batting, the ability to bowl a few overs could tilt the balance towards Hardik PandyaIANS

Hardik Pandya or Karun Nair – an all-rounder who has never played Test match cricket or a pure batsman yet to make his debut? Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble will have a difficult decision to make, before the first Test match against England starts on Wednesday in Rajkot.

Pandya was impressive with the ball in the recently-concluded ODI series against New Zealand, while also showing he can handle the bowling workload in an 'A' tour in Australia, but Nair is someone who has scored plenty of runs in domestic cricket and has been a part of the India Test squad in the past, albeit largely as a replacement due to injuries.

When you look purely at the numbers alone, Nair's is better in first-class cricket, but what Pandya offers is more dynamism – he can bat lower down the order and offer Kohli a fifth bowling option, which can be so vital in a Test match.

The coach Kumble, speaking to reporters on Sunday, admitted the final decision is one which requires considerable thought.

"Hardik is an extremely talented player," Kumble said. "Even when he first came into IPL, he showed what he was capable of. Yes, the shorter format is different but we have all seen the potential that Hardik has.

"Karun has done all hard yards in domestic cricket. He has scored runs heavily, regularly and consistently. There was some talk about him not getting runs in Australia for India A, but what we are looking at is consistency. That's why he was a part of New Zealand Test squad. After that he went back to Ranji Trophy, got those runs, hundreds."

Both these players are in contention for a place in the India playing XI against England owing to an injury to Rohit Sharma. The right-hander has been ruled out for the entire series, so you feel both Pandya and Nair will get an opportunity at some point in this series.

India played with six batsmen against New Zealand, with Kohli and Kumble backing Rohit to the hilt, so if they go with the same theory, then Nair should get the nod. What does work in Pandya's favour, though, is that he can also bowl, and that too at a really good pace, which in turn gives India the option to go with three spinners and one specialist fast bowler.

"We all understand the importance of a fifth bowler," Kumble added. "And if someone can bowl at 140kph and give option of batting well lower down the order, we are really looking at how Hardik develops."

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