Will Hardik Pandya be key to India's World Cup campaign?
With a successful revolution brought in by captain Virat Kohli in Indian cricket, there has evolved a new-age flamboyant brand of the game in India and one such person closely associated to this brand of cricket is all rounder Hardik Pandya.
Having represented the country for the first time in 2016, Pandya has been quick to rise through the ranks thus making a name for himself in world cricket. However, at a fairly young age of 25, he has already gone through his share of ups and downs in his international career.
After missing out on five big games for his distasteful comments on a popular chat show, Hardik Pandya was able to make a positive comeback in the ODI series against New Zealand. In the 3 matches he played in the series, he scored 61 runs including a quickfire 45 off 22 at Wellington and added a total of 4 wickets to his tally.
Widely regarded as the next big thing in Indian cricket by fans and experts alike, Pandya seems to have the backing of his captain Virat Kohli, who once acknowledged him by saying- "It's very hard to find people with that kind of ability. People should appreciate his skill and what he brings to the table. I think he can go down as one of the most accomplished Indian cricketers".
With such strong words coming from the man himself, it would be safe to say that Pandya is likely to be India's first choice all-rounder in the squad for the World Cup
Back in ICC Champions Trophy 2017, which was played at the same venues as the upcoming World Cup, Hardik Pandya had played an important part in the team. Playing as the only pace bowling all-rounder in the squad, Pandya scored 105 runs in 5 matches at a healthy average of 52.50. He was not as successful with the ball though, collecting only 4 wickets from 5 matches but over time, he has matured as a cricketer and has worked considerably on his bowling in the last year or two.
Unfortunately, the recently concluded T20 series against the Kiwis did not bring him a lot of luck. In 3 matches, he was able to score only 25 runs and pick 3 wickets at a reasonably high average of 43.66. In the third T20 of the series, he went for 44 runs from his 4 overs and failed to pick any wickets and got heavily trolled on social media for the same. At times like this, it becomes even more important to back a match-winner like Pandya, someone who is making a comeback and is already lacking confidence in his game.
Indian cricket has not been blessed with genuine fast bowling all-rounders after Kapil Dev retired from the sport. However, years after, a bright prospect has come forward in the name of Hardik Pandya and so, he must be treasured by all means, for he could very well be the key to India's dreams at the World Cup this year.
What's your say on Hardik's inclusion in the squad for the World Cup? Should Vijay Shankar be considered ahead of him? Feel free to share your views in the comments down below.