India's next Kapil Dev or first Hardik Pandya?
Has India found its next Kapil Dev or Jacques Kallis? These two names are more than just names! They are the legends of their respective teams, more so of this beautiful game. The contributions made by these two players has been imperative in shaping the future of their respective teams.
For a nation like India, where cricket is considered a religion and the players as its gods; having a fast bowling all-rounder in the team is a blessing in itself. With this blessing, the dreams of finding their next Kapil Dev aspires new hopes and also the onsets of comparisons with the legend.
However, if one is to believe Hardik Pandya, India has not found its lost gem but something new in Hardik Pandya. Yes, the Kung-fu Pandya is everything the Indian team has been craving for.
There was a phase when the greatest of players and the fans together considered this player a misfit in the current Indian team. Nevertheless, the player has proved himself with performances which the team management expected from him.
Not only with the bat but also with the ball, Pandya is always among the main contributors in the respective department. Moreover, he has been a cult figure in the Indian fielding set-up. The all-rounder is agile and has produced some of the magical moments with his fielding from a dull phase of a Test session.
Though the statistics never support his role in the team yet the player has managed to make the most out of any opportunity thrown towards him.
"It’s all about winning. Stats really don’t matter, I mean, guys have really great series and all that, and all people take notice and take their place in history with those stats and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, it's all about winning and what you can do to get your team to that point"
Away tours of England, South Africa and Australia are always a test of quality and character of any player. Hardik Pandya, who has already played two of these three away tours in a span of two and a half years of his cricketing career, has already experienced the pressure which many players failed to cope-up with.
The player, who was instrumental with his performances in South Africa, is proving his worth in the Test series against England. In a series where the top scorer- Virat Kohli, leads the run-getters list by more than 200 runs, the Baroda born all-rounder has provided necessary contributions with the bat.
The contributions may not be huge from a statistical point of view but they were certainly big enough in the context of the game and situations where the whole batting line-up was made to look vulnerable against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Pandya also showed resistance in the third Test match in Trent Bridge, he played 52 dot balls in the first innings which is uncharacteristic of a batsman whose instinct is to hit the ball over long-on. Even though, the pundits felt that Pandya was trying to imitate someone but this sort of role played by the player is a statement in itself that he is trying to be “The Test Player” he needs to be.
With 10 Test matches under his belt and the tag of being an all-rounder, Pandya was more often criticized for not picking-up wickets as the great Kapil Dev or Jacques Kallis would do. Despite all this, the player was involved in key dismissals on the South African tour and the first two Test matches here in England.
Alas! These contributions have gone unnoticed due to some of his weak performances on the field despite knowing the fact that the whole team struggled to influence the game during those moments. In spite of all this, the Indian all-rounder never fails to surprise the voices disregarding him as a Test player.
If he played atypically in the first innings in the third Test then he did something unusual to the English batting line-up in the same match.
Now, what did he do? The bowler whose primary instinct is to bang the ball short and get it up; he bowled a lot fuller than he does thus allowing the ball to swing and making the English batsmen taste their own medicine. Besides, he got a wicket off a short ball; all of a sudden India’s backup “hit-the-deck bowler” became almost a frontline swing bowler.
During Pandya’s stint in the English downfall, Michael Holding who is among the famous critics of Indian cricket was prompted to say that-” Pandya didn’t try too much. He didn’t try to hit the pitch too hard and just allowed the ball to do enough.” This is something about Hardik Pandya that everyone likes. He carries the necessary surprise element with him.
Whenever people think that they have seen enough of Pandya, then he will do something else, he will show that there is a little bit more to him. This is the reason why the voice of cricket- Harsha Bhogle said that-” Things seem to happen around him, I remember someone telling me during the match against Sri Lanka, where he scored his first century that whether he is capable of batting with the no 10 and 11 batsmen and next thing we knew in about 25-30 odd balls he’s gone from a fifty to a hundred. This is the reason why I say, things happen when Hardik Pandya is around or he makes things happen.”
Rightly so, the all-rounder has performed and found a way out for India on quite a few occasions. It is his energy combined with Virat Kohli’s confidence which is doing the trick for him and India. In an environment of chopping and changing after every match, the player has been cushioned and has been a regular member in the playing 11 of the Indian team since his debut.
Kohli said in a press conference,"He (Hardik) is a real asset for Indian cricket, I would say. It’s very hard to find a guy who can almost touch 140 kph and who strikes the way he strikes the ball. And he can bat through the innings as well. People should appreciate his skill and what he brings to the table. A lot of people focus on a lot of other things about Hardik, which I don’t think should be anyone else’s problem. He has his own journey, and he is finding his own way."
Virat Kohli, later on, added,"If he gets the kind of support that a player like him should get, I think he could go down as one of the most accomplished Indian cricketers in times to come."
Such a statement itself is a proof that the player is blessed with his skipper’s confidence which is a rare thing in this set-up of the Indian team. The all-rounder may be a misfit according to many but the fact he has shown his true character to fight the odds is something which is remarkable.
It is still a question whether Hardik Pandya is a no.6 player or not for India; but the fact that he’s certainly evolving and if he keeps batting and bowling the way he did against England, there is no doubt that the counting of this player in the elite group of all-rounders is not much far away.