Hardik Pandya has been in great form. The 28-year-old recently led the Gujarat Titans to victory in the 2022 IPL final to become the second-youngest captain to win the competition. He also became the third captain after Anil Kumble and Rohit Sharma to win the Man of the Match award in an IPL final.
While the has always been a prolific finisher, his struggles with injuries had dented his bowling. As a result, the allrounder had picked up his share of detractors in recent times.
The Gujarat Titans skipper, however, proved his critics wrong by leading his side from the front in the IPL to earn a place in Team India's squad for the South Africa series.
Hardik Pandya is likely to feature in the playing XI as a finisher, and his performances with the ball are a good sign for India ahead of the T20 World Cup.
With that in mind, here are three reasons why Pandya should play as an all-rounder in the home series against the Proteas.
#3. Hardik Pandya has bowled well in the IPL
It's probably fair to say that Hardik Pandya single-handedly broke the Rajasthan Royals' backbone by picking up the prized scalps of Jos Butler, Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer in the 2022 IPL final.
Prior to the IPL, the 28-year-old had drawn a lot of flak for his injuries, causing him to be sidelined from the national team. The 28-year-old couldn't bowl much in the last two years owing to a back injury. As a matter of fact, there was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding his bowling ahead of the recently concluded IPL.
But with the Gujarat Titans skipper returning with figures of 3/17 in the final, it is safe to assume that he is fit to roll his arms when required.
Having an all-rounder in the ranks is always known to give a team an edge over their opponents. More so if it's someone of Hardik Pandya's calibre. With Pandya bowling at full tilt, skipper KL Rahul will have an extra bowling option in him going into the series should a frontline seamer get hammered.
#2. Allows the team to play an extra batter
Team India's middle-order has always been a matter of concern. Arguably most of the success of the Men in Blue with the bat in recent times can be attributed to the top order. Be it the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan or the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, India's overreliance on top-order batters has cost them dearly.
The absence of some of the big names such as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the squad provides an opportunity for the inexperienced batters to prove their mettle. In such a scenario, having the services of Hardik Pandya as a bowler would make matters easier for the management. This will allow the inclusion of an extra batter to provide stability to the middle order.
#1. Arguably assures him of a spot in the T20 World Cup squad
The ICC T20 World Cup will undoubtedly be on Hardik Pandya's mind as he returns to the Indian team against South Africa. The Surat-born all-rounder has been instrumental in his team's success in this year's IPL, with handy spells with both the bat and ball.
The 28-year-old finished the season with 487 runs in 15 matches, at an average of 44.27. Incidentally, it is also the most he has scored in any edition of the cash-rich league. With the ball, Hardik Pandya picked up 8 wickets at an economy of 7.28 - his best economy rate across all seasons of the tournament.
It's a no-brainer that Pandya will be looking to make a strong case for himself when he takes the field against the Proteas. With the Indian team in dire need of an all-rounder ahead of the World Cup, the Gujarat Titans skipper should leave no stone unturned to keep himself in contention.