Hardik Pandya Moving Towards Becoming the ‘Perfect All-Rounder’
“I want to be the Jacques Kallis of India,” Hardik Pandya had said a little while after his international debut for India back in 2016. Having a role model like Kallis can be tough at times. Whether it was batting or bowling, Kallis was class personified. But again, they are exactly the kind of people who inspire us to believe and push ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to achieve what we want.
As far as Pandya is concerned, he has always been a person who has believed in his abilities. However, two years down the line, he is still working his way towards becoming the perfect all-rounder he has always strived to be. And that is mainly because of his bowling , which is still a work in progress.
But he is going in the right direction, which was further established by the way he bowled in Bristol during the T20I series decider between India and England on Sunday.
England had a considerable edge going into the series decider with the Indian bowling line-up weakened considerably. Jasprit Bumrah had already been ruled out of the series since the first T20I. To aggravate things further, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was down with a stiff back ahead of this match.
In a surprising turn of events, Kohli chose to drop Kuldeep Yadav, considering the nature of the pitch and the dimensions of the ground which had 60-metre boundaries on average. Deepak Chahar was making his international debut for India and Siddharth Kaul was inducted as the extra pacer in the line-up. These circumstances made Pandya the most experienced among the four pacers as far as the T20 international experience was concerned.
Things didn’t look that bright for India when the English openers started off in the third T20. The scoreboard read 51/0 at the end of the fifth over when Pandya came on to bowl and Jason Roy greeted him with two fours and two sixes as he bowled three consecutive short deliveries followed by a full one.
Two singles followed in his next two deliveries and, at the end of the over, he had already conceded a whopping 22 runs; six runs less than what he had conceded in his entire quota of four overs in the previous match at Cardiff.
After that dismal over, anyone would have hardly imagined that he was going to register his best T20 bowling figures in this match. But Pandya proved everyone wrong as he made a superb comeback and went on to claim figures of 4-0-38-4 in this match.
He showed great composure when he was brought back by Kohli to bowl his remaining three overs. He adapted to the nature of the pitch very well and bowled on good lengths – neither too full nor too short – to the batsmen. He also varied his pace very well.
In the process, he took four wickets in his next three overs conceding just 16 runs. What's more fascinating about it was that none of those wickets were that of tailenders and they included top-order batsmen like Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. He induced edges off Hales and Bairstow’s willows with deliveries that nipped off the surface and also foxed Morgan and Stokes very cleverly with his change ups – which were mostly cutters.
From bowling all over the pitch in his first over and getting smashed all over the ground, Pandya adapted very quickly and rectified his mistakes, thus getting wickets in return as well as stemming the run flow.
The way he stepped up with his bowling in the absence of India’s premier bowlers and overcame the challenges posed by the ground size and conditions is something he should be lauded for.
Not only on Sunday, he had bowled pretty well in the previous two matches at Manchester and Cardiff as well, registering figures of 4-0-33-1 and 4-0-28-1, respectively. In fact, his improvement as a bowler was noticeable during his recent IPL exploits as well.
Although a bit expensive, he was one of the top wicket-takers in the tournament with 18 wickets to his name in 13 matches at an average of 21.16 and strike rate of 14.22. That made him the top wicket-taker for Mumbai Indians as well in this season, even ahead of Bumrah. Thus, it can be said that his performance as a bowler started peaking since this recent edition of the IPL.
Before that, he had always had his fair share of problems with his bowling. He was pretty one-dimensional at times and proved to be ineffective with the ball most of the times. Yes, he performed well in patches like his 3/8 vs Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dhaka back in 2016, 3/31 in an ODI vs New Zealand at Dharamsala in 2016, 3/49 vs England in another ODI at Kolkata in 2017 and 3/29 vs Sri Lanka at Cuttack in a T20I in 2017, among others. However, he was never as consistent with his performances as he is now.
The improvement in his bowling is mainly due to the superb change-ups – the cutters and other slower ones – he has introduced into his armory and also due to his increasing knowledge of the areas he needs to bowl at, in order to pose a threat to the batsmen continuously with each delivery.
The confidence he got through his superb bowling effort in the third T20 was reflected in his batting also as he played a superb innings of 33 runs off just 14 deliveries to finish things off for his team. At the end of this series, he has six wickets in three matches at an average of 16.5 and strike rate of 12.0.
This match should be seen as the one when the bowler in Pandya started making rapid strides towards higher heights because it is only going to get better for him from here. With his batting already ticking all the right boxes, it can be said that he is finally bowling his way to the right direction.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @Prosen02. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)