World Cup 2019: Hardik Pandya - The poster boy of Indian Cricket
Hardik Pandya burst into the IPL as an arrogant bloke that could bat a bit and bowl a bit. He was the clichéd bits and pieces cricketer. He had no great numbers in first-class cricket and his success at this level was sought to be temporary. He was supposed to fade away after a couple of bursts. But Pandya has been able to prove one and all wrong; he flickered for much longer and now is now flaming up.
When Hardik Pandya hit Pawan Negi for 3 sixes in a row in the final over of a chase against the Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2014, little did anyone know the heights he would scale in the next couple of years. He would go on to do the same to a number of international bowlers across formats in different conditions.
It was the beginning of a phenomenon in Indian cricket; it was the beginning of Hardik Pandya. He is a rare commodity that was not seen in Indian cricket for the last twenty years, the hard-hitting fast bowling all-rounder.
After the initial success in the IPL in the debut year, he had a very poor IPL 2015 in the coming year. He was eventually dropped from the eleven. India's hopes of a genuine fast bowling all-rounder were fading away. But champion players never give up and Hardik showed why he was a champion player in the 2016 edition of IPL. He has always performed consistently in the IPL since.
Hardik played some useful cameos down the order and was decent with the ball as well. Because of the rare commodity that he was, an India cap was around the corner. Once he got his chance to play for India in the T20I series Down Under, he never looked back. The Indian team management was pretty quick to spot the talent in him and they rightly decided to nurture him at the right time. He made his ODI debut in the coming series and was also fast-tracked into the Test setup within the next 6 months.
2017 though was the breakthrough year in international cricket for Hardik Pandya. He made his Test debut against Sri Lanka and come out with flying colors. Having scored a hundred in just his second Test match, he showcased that he was not a one-dimensional player. The innings was a mixture of everything, displaying tremendous temperament, patience and aggression at different times in it. One could sense from his attitude and the way he carried himself in the field that he was here to stay.
It was not a different story in One-day cricket as well where he surprised one and all by conjuring crucial innings at very difficult situations time and again. The out-and-out attack against Pakistan in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy was when he was at his offensive best while the composed 78 against Australia at Indore was where he adapted his game according to the situation and played a calm and mature innings.
His rise with the ball has been similarly mind-boggling as well. As he ventured into the international scene, he was just a guy who could bowl at a decent pace and there was not much variety in his bowling. After a mere three years of international cricket, he can swing the ball when the conditions assist, as he showed at Lord's with a fifer against England. Pandya has a sharp bouncer which he uses to surprise batsmen, a mean off cutter and a good slower one which allows him to be an option at the death overs as well.
He has adapted to various conditions while bowling and he has done it in such a small frame of time that makes his achievements so astonishing. Pandya has become one of the most valuable players in the Indian ODI setup, with his ability to hit big as well as construct innings when needed. Add to that his more than handy medium pace bowling. Moreover, he is extremely athletic and is also one of the best fielders in world cricket at present.
With age on his side and a captain who is not afraid of putting him in new circumstances every other day, Pandya has everything going for him. He now has grown into a player capable of playing in the top 6 and bowling at least 8 overs every match.
It is safe to assume that the search India was on for a fast bowling all-rounder ever since the decline of Irfan Pathan is over. India now has Hardik Pandya, who at the top of his game now is second to none other with similar credentials and he would be one of the key factors for India going into the ICC World Cup. It can be said that if Pandya has a good World Cup, India would have a deep run in the tournament.
Also read - Most sixes in a world cup match