Who is Priyank Panchal, the batter who replaced injured Rohit Sharma in India’s squad for the Test series against South Africa?


A hamstring injury sustained by Rohit Sharma has paved the way for a call to the Priyank Panchal, a batting heavyweight in the Indian domestic circuit. After recently playing for India A in South Africa, where he scored 96, 24 and 0, Panchal, 31, was rewarded with another call-up to the Indian Test team. He was previously part of India’s expanded squad for the four-Test series against England at home as a stand-by player.

For those who are not aware, Panchal is one of the best opening stores going around the Indian domestic circuit. With a first-class experience of 100 matches, Panchal has scored over 7,000 runs, including 24 centuries and 25 fifties, including a best of 314 not out, which he collected against the Punjab in a breakout 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season. It was the year that Panchal stacked over 1300 runs and finished as the leading rungetter in the tournament.

In addition to being an opening striker, Panchal is also a handy right-arm mid-pacer, and although he has no more than 22 wickets to show for his efforts, he is able to deliver his team the strange breakthrough every now and then. After his amazing heroism with the bat that led Gujarat to their first Ranji Trophy title in the 2016-17 season, Panchal followed it up with another superlative show next season, finishing as the team’s leading run-getter with 542 runs from seven matches.

Panchal’s form saw no dive and his shares soared. In the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, Panchal scored 898 runs in nine matches and a further 367 runs from eight matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy that year. Before embarking on the tour in South Africa, Panchal was also among the races in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 134 against Maharashtra, 66 against Kerala and undefeated 43 against Railways.

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As part of India A, Panchal has worked closely with current head coach Rahul Dravid. During their tour of New Zealand in 2020, Panchal struck a century against New Zealand A at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch, a blow that is often not so much talked about since Shubman Gill scored a cracking double century in the same game. Panchal has ticked most of the boxes on the way to knocking on the doors of voters. Since the 2016-17 season, Panchal has the record for making the most runs of any batsman in first-class matches in India.

When India A played against Sri Lanka at home in 2019, Panchal scored 160. But probably one of Panchal’s finest shots ever came when India A traveled to the West Indies the same year. In the second unofficial test in the Port of Spain, on a day when 19 wickets fell, Panchal stood out with 58 in the first half and 68 in the second. When India A won the match, Panchal was rightly named the player of the match.

With Rohit out, Panchal will be the third specialist opener in the squad after KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, and with a three-Test series on the horizon, who knows when the Indian team returns, he could have made his debut in India, possibly a memorable one.

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