India has always been on the lookout for all-rounders that bat deep and can more than contribute with the ball. The player has to be an exceptional fielder was not even the set qualification criteria.
Enters Hardik Pandya in the Indian ranks in 2016, and the conundrum that India has been pondering over since long was solved. The incomplete puzzle had found a perfect match, probably. India had briefly persisted with Stuart Binny at the same position but without much-telling results. The Pandya punt has gone through the roof.
It is a story of the folklore that legendary Sachin Tendulkar had predicted his national selection just a little less than six months back before his debut. At the moment, it is more than evident that he is a vital cog in Team India’s scheme of things for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Though Pandya might have been serving the national side for a little around two years, he has made an impression that can’t be overwritten for quite some time now. With him, it’s more than the numbers – it’s all about the depth and balance he lands to the squad, with both bat and ball.
What do the numbers say?
In seven Tests, he has scored 368 runs with a century and three half-centuries and also has seven wickets to his name.
In 38 ODIs, he has scored 628 runs with four half-centuries and scalped 39 wickets. In 35 T20Is, he has scored 271 runs at a staggering strike rate of 153.10 and taken 33 wickets. While he is still settling in the Test fold, his performance in the limited-overs setup is just what the doctor ordered for.
In 50 IPL matches, he has scored 666 runs with two fifties at a strike rate of 138.75 and taken 28 wickets at an average of 32.96 and an economy rate of 9.01.
He has already hit eight sixes in four matches on the tour to Ireland and England so far in the T20s.
The numbers might be at a nascent stage but are surely an indication of where this young lad is heading towards.
An impactful journey so far
Pandya has found himself in the thick of things more often than, making an impact on occasions and taking charge of the situations single-handedly, and that too across formats.
He defended 11 off the final over in the Super 10 match or the virtual quarter-final of the ICC World T20 at Bengaluru, as we may call it. India went on to win the match by 1 run and Pandya emerged as the hero in the final moments of the game.
Another incident that makes its way into the minds is the 2017 Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan, where he single-handedly gave India hope with a 43-ball 76 studded with four boundaries and six maximums.
This was arguably one of the gutsiest innings ever played by an Indian and that too in the finale of the high-profile tournament. Though India lost the match by 180 runs, Pandya had stamped his authority on world cricket by that singular knock.
When you talk about the batsmen who bat deep and portray the role of a finisher, what matters more is the strike rate and the number of big hits, rather than the total score in an innings, and Pandya does not shy away from the big hits.
Also, his ability to hit the deck hard and brilliant athleticism on the field is working wonders for India at the moment. Gradually, he is adapting to the role of a finisher with Mahendra Singh Dhoni opting to bat up the order.
Pandya’s on and off the field stories of grit, determination, and courage are bound to take him far, and he is in the right direction with the right minds behind him in the dressing room. With an aggressive mindset, he enjoys his captain’s support and this is only going to be beneficial for the team’s future.
Are we seeing the emergence of a world-class all-rounder at the moment? Yes, in all probability.
Get all the latest updates about today's sports news and much more only @Sportskeeda.
Is Hardik Pandya India's premium all-rounder at the moment? Sound off in the comments section below!