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Fringe Festival: Australia to test drive vs Hardik Pandya-led India A

Hardik Pandya

Mumbai: All-rounder Hardik Pandya will like to make a case for himself in Test match selection as he leads a talented bunch of India A players against Australia in a three-day warm-up game acting as pre-cursor to the series opener, starting February 23.

Hardik, who has been dubbed as a limited overs expert, has improved as a seamer and a good show against the visitors may force skipper Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble to keep him in their plans when they sit around for a discussion on playing during first two Test matches.

Against a quality side like Australia, the performers at the domestic level will get a chance to test themselves against the likes of Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc if Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann decides to give them a few overs.

Opener Priyank Panchal of Gujarat, who has had a phenomenal season backed up by a century against Bangladesh in the previous warm-up game will also like to remain in selector's radar for the slot of reserve opener. This is the only practice game for the visitors and they would like to make full use of it with batsmen getting some good time out there in the middle and bowlers loosening up with some overs.

The home team has some other exciting young players such as the hard-hitting ex-India U-19 World Cup batsmen Rishabh Pant of Delhi and Ishan Kishan who were part of North and East Zones in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Inter-Zonals at the nearby Wankhede Stadium.

Both can keep wickets as well as bat flamboyantly but it's Jharkhand's Kishan, who led the country in the Junior World Cup last year in Bangladesh, who has been chosen as the wicket keeper for the game.

Then there are others like Mumbai's highly rated batsman Shreyas Iyer and his teammate Akhil Herwadkar, who is expected to open the innings with the in-form Panchal. Iyer had scored over 1300 runs at one-down while guiding Mumbai to their 41st Ranji title last season but has had a dip in form this season, while Panchal, with a plus 1300 aggregate, led Gujarat to their maiden national crown this season.

In the middle-order there's Maharashtra's Ankit Bawne, an experienced campaigner although his is just 24, along with Tamil Nadu¿s Baba Indrajit who may not get a chance to make the eleven as the match is to be held strictly as a first-class game, according to visiting team¿s coach Darren Lehmann.

"Proper first-class game," was the way Lehmann put it when asked at the media conference here two days ago. That eliminates the prospect of testing all the players at some stage of the game or the other as has been the practice in recent times.

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