Why Hardik Pandya is crucial to India's chances in World T20
- The seaming all-rounder will be instrumental in Australian conditions at the T20 World Cup.
Hardik Pandya is, in many ways, the quintessential all-rounder that cricketing teams yearn for these days. Pandya had announced his arrival on the big stage with a match-winning innings of 21 off 8 deliveries in the IPL against Chennai Super Kings. Realizing the potential in him the great Sachin Tendulkar told him in 2015 that:
' He would go on to represent India in a year or two'.
That is high praise coming from a legend of the game when you are only just starting to find your feet and it would have done his confidence a world of good. Proving Tendulkar right, he went on to make his debut in the T20 format in early 2016 against Australia.
The sheer value that Pandya brings to the team is something that cannot just be expressed in numbers. The immense self-belief that this man carries is what separates him from the rest. This very self-belief is what had kept most Indian fans glued to their TV sets in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan even though India looked down and out at one point. It was an exhibition of properly calculated hitting. He couldn't carry India over the line but won over a lot of people that day.
Now analyzing why Pandya is so crucial to India's limited-overs teams: He is an all-round package. He can whack sixes for fun, can fulfill the role of a third seamer and is an absolute livewire on the field. He has hit a hat-trick of sixes a record 5 times in international cricket. His strike rate in all 3 formats is absolutely top draw ( Test- 73.89, ODI- 115.58 and T20- 147.62), thus indicating he can turn a match around in the blink of an eye.
His inclusion allows India to play the 'Kul-Cha' combo which has tormented teams over a period of time. Both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav thrive in each other's company. They have a better economy as well as strike rate playing together. Playing two leg spinners is a luxury most teams cannot afford these days plus it gives the Indian team two wicket-taking options in the middle overs. Sure Kuldeep has looked out of touch for a while but he seems a confidence bowler and letting him get back to the grind of domestic cricket can help him get his form back. India can then unleash him in the T20 world cup.
Also see – Women’s T20 world cup schedule
A coveted attribute
India's perennial search for a quality seam bowling all-rounder is what led them to invest in Pandya. When Pandya was initially picked to play for the Indian team his first-class numbers were rather ordinary. But MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli both realized that he can be a game-changer for them in the future and persisted with him. With their constant backing, he turned out to be the 'player' he is today. It was not all hunky-dory for him though. He wasn't consistent enough the first couple of years but did show a few sparks of brilliance.
'IPL 2019' was where he truly set the stage on fire. It was the perfect platform for him to show off his newfound consistency against the world's best. He was at his brutal best hitting sixes at will and tormenting bowlers, eventually ending the season with 402 runs at a blistering strike rate of 191.42 (bettered only by a certain 'Andre Russell') and also picking up 14 wickets. In fact, this is what renowned cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle had to say about Pandya after the match against KKR where he smashed a breath-taking 91 off 34 balls. He quoted " When Hardik Pandya is batting I stop what I am doing. The ball seems to leave his bat like it is propelled by an engine.You can say that about the others too, especially Russell.
But while Russell brutalises the ball Pandya just seems to admonish it. He seems to find gaps and hits it to various angles and therefore it becomes very tough to set a field against him ".
He returned to the international fold in due course of time and had a pretty decent World Cup with 226 runs and 10 wickets under his belt but an acute lower back injury that he had, flared up after India's final T20I against South Africa in September. He was advised surgery hence ruling him out of action for 5 months.
He was in a race against time to get himself fit for the New Zealand series. Although he did try to get back within the stipulated time period, he was unable to manage his bowling workload and thus was completely ruled out of the New Zealand series. Meanwhile, India completed a historic whitewash of the New Zealanders in the T20s. Very few seemed to remember Pandya since the results had gone in our favour.
The need of the hour
But once the ODIs finished everyone realised the importance of Pandya. India suffered their first ODI whitewash in more than 3 decades as New Zealand completed a 3-0 sweep. The series highlighted how crucial Pandya is to the team and what he brings to the table as team combinations had to be changed and Ravindra Jadeja had to be included because of his superior batting skills when compared to Chahal and Kuldeep thereby leaving room for only one of them.
His return in the DY Patil T20 tournament is therefore music to the ears of Indian fans. As ardent fans we can hope he comes back with a bang because it is getting really difficult to see an Indian team without Pandya these days. If he is fully fit and firing come the T20 world cup there is no reason why India cant lift the trophy on the 15th of November.Published 02 Mar 2020, 23:45 IST