Hardik Pandya: India's quest for medium pace all rounder seems to have ended
Indian captains in the last three decades have not had the luxury of a quality genuine pace bowling all-rounder. Virat Kohli's side has unearthed a player who has the ability to change the game with both bat and ball. Hardik Pandya's match awareness and big match temperament certainly seem to be improving with every single outing at the international level.
Few showed promise but faded away
The likes of Irfan Pathan, Robin Singh, Stuart Binny and Sanjay Bangar, to name a few, showed glimpses of becoming the next all-rounder India were looking for, since the retirement of legendary Kapil Dev, but were not game changers on a consistent basis.
Even though India had their moments in the sun, they could not dominate world cricket through the 90s and 2000s primarily because of the quality medium pace all-rounder or the lack of it. The arrival of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina meant India had spin options from the top 6 batsmen and hence the got the balance right in sub-continent conditions but struggled outside.
India were desperate for the Pollocks, Watsons and Kallises.
IPL came as a boon
The IPL T20 that kick-started in 2008 gave some hope for the selectors to find someone who can bowl those short bursts of medium pace bowling and also use the long handle to good effect down the order, especially in white ball cricket. Not many Indian medium pace all-rounders were setting the world alight till the 2014 edition.
It was in IPL 2015 that the world first saw a wiry young batsman hitting sixes with ease in the death overs in Mumbai Indians’ blue jersey. The fact that he had the ability to bowl at brisk pace added one more string to his bow. With good domestic T20 performances for Baroda, Hardik Pandya earned a national call-up for the 2016 ICC World T20 that was held in India.
From villain to hero in an over
Pandya’s moment of glory came in the nail-biter against Bangladesh when he bowled that final over to keep India’s hopes alive in the competition. With only 10 runs to defend, Hardik Pandya managed to do so despite giving away boundaries off the first two deliveries. The way he held his nerve meant he was ready for the big occasions.
Lends balance on overseas tours
As India prepare for the overseas tours in 2018, Pandya was handed Test debut against the below-par Sri Lanka and he responded with a belligerent hundred and a half century.
The Baroda cricketer lends a lot of balance to Indian side especially when they tour South Africa later this year and England next year because he gives the luxury to the team management either to play an extra batsman or the second spinner.