Opinion: Why is Hardik Pandya so special to this Indian team?
In a country of 1.3 billion people, there are only a handful of cricketers who make it to the highest level. And even among those players, there are few who have the gift of being good with both the bat and the ball.
One such player in the current Indian squad is Hardik Pandya.
What is Hardik Pandya’s strength?
He can drive, he can pull, he can bounce you out & also bowl full. You bowl him at his pads and he’ll land the ball out of the park with his helicopter shot. You bowl it in his arc and he’ll whack you over cow corner.
He can bowl slower balls, cutters, bouncers and what not. Although his bowling figures aren’t a perfect reflection of his performance, his presence as a seam bowling option adds strength to India’s bowling attack.
He makes his presence felt on the field as well. Always chirping, motivating his teammates and most importantly, saving runs more often than not. His hands are one of the safest in world cricket at the moment.
Hardik Pandya's ODI stats
He has a batting strike rate of 120 with 57 fours, 40 sixes, 19 catches & 46 wickets in the 48 matches played so far.
How has Hardik Pandya filled the void in the Indian team?
India have had some good all-rounders in the last few years but they weren’t as effective as Hardik.
There was Irfan Pathan, who was India’s leading bowler and once even batted at number 3 for the, but he couldn’t last long. Suresh Raina could bat and chip in with a few overs but he was still a part timer.
Yuvraj was a very effective all-rounder but after his exit, India struggled to find a replacement.
This is the void that Hardik fills up. He’s a deadly finisher, he can bowl 10 decent overs with a few wickets and also couple it up with his fielding.
A perfect floating pinch hitter?
A floating pinch hitter is any player who can give the team an impetus at any stage of the innings, batting at any number the team prefers. His/her job is to add some quick runs to an already good total or counter attack in low scoring encounters.
And this is exactly what Hardik can do. In 2 of the 3 matches that India has played so far in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Pandya has been sent at number 4. And the only purpose of doing so is to get quick runs.
Dhoni is a terrific hitter but he usually takes some time to settle down. Hardik on the other hand, can go big right from the first ball. His average batting strike rate in the recently concluded IPL was 191.42. That is some serious hitting ability.
Floating pinch hitters are the need of the hour and this separates India from many other teams.
It remains to be seen if Hardik Pandya can become the player that Kapil Dev was once for India. But he surely has a very bright future ahead and is the key to India’s chances in this World Cup.