After the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) included Hardik Pandya in Team India's centrally contracted players while leaving out Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer, a wave of memes struck X.

 

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Team India all-rounder Hardik Pandya were slammed on social media after the former announced the list of cricketers who were handed central contracts for the 2023-24 season.

Amid swirling speculation over the fate of wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan and injury-prone top-order player Shreyas Iyer, the BCCI confirmed that the duo was not included in the cricket body's annual contracts.

 

Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer created a lot of buzz in recent weeks, largely for the wrong reasons, after the two players decided against the team management and the BCCI's decision to play domestic cricket when they are not employed with the national side.

 

However, the two batters continuously ignored head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma's dictate, missing a string of Ranji Trophy games, irking the national selection committee led by former India fast bowler Ajit Agarkar.

 

In particular, Rohit Sharma was quite categorical about the situation, underlining that young cricketers must understand the essence of domestic cricket and should follow the advice given to them by the national selectors and think tank. 

 

He went on to warn them, emphasizing that only players who were willing to work hard would be picked to represent India in international matches. But players not willing to do so would not be considered for selection. 

 

In this context, the BCCI chose not to offer contracts to both Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan. 

 

“Please note that Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan were not considered for the annual contracts in this round of recommendations,” a statement from the Indian Cricket Board read.

 

The BCCI's statement, however, didn't go well with the supporters of Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan.

 

Their admirers criticized the board over its stand on Hardik Pandya, who no longer plays red-ball domestic cricket. Similarly, Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan have missed four-day fixtures of the Ranji Trophy.

 

But unlike Hardik Pandya, who was included in the list of centrally-contracted players, Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan missed out. 

 

This led the fans to describe Hardik Pandya as “selfish”. 

 

Nonetheless, a BCCI official and former India opener, Aakash Chopra, explained that Hardik Pandya's case was different from that of Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer's.   

 

“We have had discussions with Pandya, who has been told to play domestic white-ball tournaments when he is available. At this stage, according to the assessment of the BCCI's medical team, he is not in a position to bowl in red-ball tournaments. So playing Ranji Trophy is out of the equation for Pandya. But he has to play other white-ball tournaments if there are no India commitments. If not, he will miss out on a contract,” a BCCI official told an Indian media outlet.

 

“Hardik Pandya's case is very simple. 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. 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 (first-class cricket),” Aakash Chopra said on his YouTube channel.

 

“If he stops for India despite being fit. If he is on break and doesn't want to play Syed Mushtaq Ali or Vijay Hazare Trophy for promotion or a video shoot or other such works. Then you can say he is wrong. But currently he is not. And why would you punish him if he has not made a mistake?” he elaborated.

 

Hardik Pandya has not featured in the Indian Cricket Team since last year's ODI World Cup before getting injured in between the prestigious tournament.

 

He recently returned to competitive cricket, participating in the DY Patil T20 tournament. 

 

The all-rounder will continue to build momentum ahead of the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he will lead former champions Mumbai Indians in the competition later this month.

 

Hardik Pandya played for Mumbai Indians for seven consecutive seasons starting in 2015 before parting ways to join Gujarat Titans during the 2022 season.

 

During his seven-year sojourn with Mumbai Indians, the Team India all-rounder remained a vital cog in the then Rohit Sharma-led team's title-winning runs in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2020.

 

Hardik Pandya's two-year term as the leader of the Gujarat Titans (GT) was highly successful as the Gujarat-born cricketer guided them to the IPL title in their maiden season in 2022.