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Central Contracts: Hardik Pandya’s case is different from Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, says Aakash Chopra

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New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) Former Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Aakash Chopra has backed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after it handed Hardik Pandya a Grade A category Annual contract despite not featuring in international cricket since the ODI World Cup 2023 while denying the same to Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer for not playing domestic cricket.

The BCCI on Wednesday released the list of players that have been awarded annual central contracts for 2023–2024. Contracts were denied to players like Iyer and Ishan Kishan, while Hardik was placed in the Grade A category.

Hardik suffered an ankle injury during the ODI World Cup 2023 in the match against Bangladesh in Pune in October and the all-rounder has been out of action ever since. Fans on social media also pointed out Pandya’s unavailability from domestic cricket regularly.

However, Aakash Chopra defended the BCCI's decision and reckoned that Hardik cannot be punished for not playing first-class cricket, given he has not been contesting for a spot in India's Test squad.

"Hardik Pandya's case is very simple. Why would you punish him if he has not made a mistake? He is not playing red-ball cricket. That ambition or aspiration does not exist anymore. He has not said that as such, but the truth is that he is not available at all for any Test series," Chopra said on his YouTube Channel.

"So if you are not at all auditioning for Tests, no one will ask you to play first-class cricket. Why would you play four-day games when you don't have that much strength in your body to bowl so many overs and have injury problems? So why should he play - fair play," Chopra added.

Chopra also emphasised the unavailability of Hardik Pandya’s unavailability from domestic and international cricket and explained that the all-round player never missed a game like Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer, therefore Hardik's situation cannot be compared to Kishan and Iyer's.

"Let's try to understand the chronology slightly. It will just clear up your mind why a different rule has been kept for him and why it is wrong to include him with Ishan and Shreyas. He got injured during the World Cup, that was October-November," Chopra explained.

"The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was over in October-November. He was playing in the World Cup for India at that time. The last match that Baroda played in the Vijay Hazare Trophy was on 5th December. He was not fit and available. He wasn't practicing anywhere but was recovering from his injury in the NCA," he added.

Hardik Pandya returned to competitive cricket at the DY Patil T20 Cup leading the Reliance 1 team. He picked 2 for 22 against Bharat Petroleum.



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