Under the SKanner: Hardik Pandya
The last year and a half has seen the meteoric rise of young Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya. From replicating his IPL success at the international level to now making his debut in Test cricket, his has been a phenomenal journey thus far.
Some believe that he is the next big thing in Indian cricket while a few naysayers still doubt his ability, arguing that he still needs to prove himself in the biggest tournaments to be considered a genuine all-rounder.
We, at Sportskeeda, therefore, decided to put him under the scanner and examine his strengths and weaknesses.
Fast bowling all-rounder
Think of the best all-rounders who retired in the last decade, like Andrew Flintoff or Jacques Kallis, and you will observe that it is their ability to bowl fast and bat in the middle order that helped balance the team.
Fast-bowling all-rounders are cherished in cricket and the Indian team have always rued the fact they have failed to produce a great one since Kapil Dev. The rise of Irfan Pathan was celebrated but he faded away way too quickly.
Stuart Binny was tried for some time but he flattered to deceive. The emergence of Hardik Pandya thus bodes well for the Indian team.
Pandya now gives the batting line-up extra depth while he doubles up as an extra seamer as well. This gives Kohli the option of going in with one less specialist batsman or pacer depending on the conditions on offer.
All good limited overs outfits are built on the back of one or two maverick power-hitters who add a new dimension to the team. Think of India’s T20I outfit that won the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20 back in 2007 and the names of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni come to mind.
Both are now in the twilight of their careers and Dhoni has morphed into a smart grafter. India now have too many technically correct middle order batsmen who would rather play down the line with a straight bat than go for an unorthodox slog.
Pandya is a natural inclusion in the team because he is the maverick power-hitter that the team have long been crying out for. He has shown in the IPL and in international cricket as well that no boundary is large enough for him.
It is Pandya’s raw power that separates him from the rest of the pack. He might well be the last missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
Ability and talent alone might not be enough to make it at the international level especially if you are a youngster battling for a place against numerous senior players. What sets Pandya apart from many other upcoming youngsters is his supreme confidence.
The 23-year-old packs a punch and his supreme courage and confidence help him go the extra mile. His counter-attacking innings against Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy this year showed that he never gives up even in the face of adversity.
In the recently concluded third Test against Sri Lanka, despite everyone writing him off, he came on to bowl in the second innings and gave his captain a crucial breakthrough.
It is precisely this never-say-die attitude that makes him such a valuable asset to the team. What he lacks in skill, he more than makes up for with confidence.
Not enough variations while bowling
What has been noticeable in the two Tests that he has played so far is that his captain Virat Kohli has been reluctant to throw him the ball too often.
If he is to retain his place in the Test team, he has to be more than a bowler who is just used in order to give the frontline pacers a rest. The problem with Pandya’s bowling is that even though he has raw pace, he does not have too many variations up his sleeve.
He seems to be working on his bouncer and yorker at the moment but other variations such as the slower ball will be an invaluable addition to his repertoire. Moreover, as we have seen in limited overs cricket, in the attempt to bowl quickly, Pandya often compromises on his line and length.
Inconsistent with the bat
Pandya’s power hitting and ability to score quick runs have undoubtedly made him a great addition to the side. But he must now take his game to the next level and contribute more as a team player.
The problem with the all-rounder is that he often goes for fancy shots too early in his innings, often throwing his wicket away in the process. He is simply not consistent at the moment which is something he needs to start addressing.
He has to decide whether he wants to remain a bits-and-pieces cricketer who bowls a few overs and gets 20-30 with the bat, or become the next genuine all-rounder. He certainly has the potential.
Pandya must be wary of the fact that the world has seen many power-hitters fall out of favour as a result of their inconsistency. He has done all the hard work to reach this level. But now he must go that one step further.