Indian cricket has not been blessed with genuine fast bowling all-rounders after Kapil Dev retired from the sport. However, years later, Hardik Pandya has successfully taken up the mantle.
The meteoric rise of Hardik Pandya needs to be factored in as he looks primed to play an important role in the current Indian setup. The lanky all-rounder’s performances over the years in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been consistent, which has opened the doors of the Indian team for him in the past.
India’s current ODI batting setup is such that a player like Hardik is imperative in the lower middle-order. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul make a strong top five but none of these players are out and out power-hitters. At best, they are stroke-makers who can up the ante but cannot take the game away in a matter of 5-6 overs.
Since the turn of the millennium, India has been blessed with all-rounders in the limited-overs setup, that has given the captain options with both bat and ball. The likes of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina have been instrumental in India’s success in limited-overs cricket. Of late, Ravindra Jadeja has been playing that role efficiently, but Hardik Pandya adds a different dimension to the side with his ultra-aggressive lower-order batting and effective medium-pacers.
Does he have it in him to replace someone like Yuvraj Singh, who could turn the fate of the match with a moment of magic?
Hardik makes it count
The Surat-born all-rounder might not be a legend but certainly, an important member of the squad in limited over matches. His IPL career since 2015 has established him as a useful all-rounder of this generation.
With time, even as a bowler, he has grown by leaps and bounds. His all-around performance has been an asset for his IPL team Mumbai team and for the Men in Blue. With India headed for Australia to contest a 4-Test series to go with a limited-overs series, selectors will be keeping a close watch on the prospects, and Hardik Pandya’s would be one of the first names on their list.
There are reasons manifold as to why Hardik is such a key element in India’s ODI middle-order. His return would be a much welcome boost to the fifty-overs side that suffered a 0-3 whitewash in New Zealand in February this year.
Since the 2019 World Cup, Pandya has been absent from the Indian team. His injury issues have persisted over a lengthy period of time but now the hard-hitting all-rounder has made a comeback to the ODI setup for the upcoming series against South Africa. But there’s no doubt that he holds the pedigree and skill to be India’s gamechanger, just like someone of Yuvraj Singh’s stature.
Just like the southpaw, with Hardik India’s hunt for a bowling all-rounder has come to an end. Be it T20 or ODI’s, he has proven that he can play an important role and bring stability to the team.
In 11 Tests, Pandya has scored 532 runs at 31.29, with a best of 108. With the ball, he has also claimed 17 wickets so far. In 54 One Day Internationals, the all-rounder has scored 957 runs at 29.90. He has four fifties under his belt to add to 54 ODI scalps.
Going into the Australia and England series, Pandya’s form will be very crucial for India’s chances. In overseas conditions, Pandya can be the fourth seamer in Kohli’s team, bowling 10-12 overs in a day easily. In fact, he can produce those important breakthroughs as well. Besides, he is also an exceptional fielder.
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) October 25, 2020
Hardik the game changer
That he appears to be the all-rounder India have always looked out for but seldom had. It’s been the holy grail for many team across all formats for as long as anyone can remember; to have a player who can bat in the top six and offer serviceable overs with the ball. Hardik gives India exactly that in T20Is and without him, there is the constant upheaval and rearranging of deck chairs that we’ve seen over the last couple of years as India struggle to find a formula that covers the skills he has.
However, over the past couple of years, Hardik has gradually added a mean streak to his game. In addition, ground fielding is an equally important aspect of his game that the lanky all-rounder excels at. If the 27-year old manages to look after himself, the Men in Blue could be in with a huge shout for a successful tour down under.
Hardik’s stock has risen during his enforced absence but upon his return, it’s hard to make a case for a scenario in which he’s not one of the first names on the team sheet, just like his good friend and idol Yuvraj Singh.