Even before the tournament began, the inclusion of all-rounder Hardik Pandya in India’s T20 World Cup roster was questioned. After he was not seen bowling in the second leg of the Indian Premier League, followed by two practise games against England and Australia in the build-up to the Super 12s, questions about his presence in the team only grew. Pandya has continued to play as a specialist hitter in the team in the main stage of the competition, as he did against Pakistan. Pandya has been cleared to play in India’s next match, against New Zealand on October 31, after being hit on the shoulder against Pakistan and missing the second half of the game while undergoing scans.

According to sources, the national selectors were against selecting the all-rounder in the main team, but Team India guru and former skipper MS Dhoni urged on including Pandya for his finishing skills. “The fact is that the selectors wanted to send him back to India after he didn’t bowl in the IPL, but MS Dhoni (the new Team India coach) vouched for his finishing skills,” a source close to the situation told Times of India.

“For the past six months, the question about his fitness has persisted. You’re now claiming that he’s suffering from a shoulder injury. In the process, you’re not giving a fit guy a chance. You’re portraying an unfit player who isn’t contributing to the team’s success. This isn’t right. You’re overlooking other fit men who have been performing well because of him,” he continued.

Axar Patel, who had been downgraded to a reserve before the competition, was replaced in India’s squad by all-rounder Shardul Thakur. Thakur, on the other hand, was not selected for India’s tournament-opening match against Pakistan on October 24 in Dubai.