The New Mature Hardik Pandya – Just the All-Rounder India Needed
Whether Team India needs a quickfire 40 or 50 runs to bring them back into the match or the spinners are not working their magic in the middle overs, skipper Virat Kohli turns to his go-to man – Hardik Pandya – to restore order.
By going into the match against a really good Bangladesh side with just five bowling options, India took a considerably big gamble. If even one of the bowlers had an off day, there was nobody in the team who could roll his arm over except Virat. While this could have been a nightmarish situation, it also goes to show the faith that the team management has in Hardik.
The player can crumble under pressure, having absolutely nothing to fall back upon, or it can spur him on to show his real character and rise to the occasion, which is exactly what Hardik Pandya did.
“We’ve experienced that when Hardik is put under pressure, he has come back well in the tournament. He finds a way to contain runs and get you wickets, he’s really looking forward to do stuff for the team and that’s really helping his cricket. When he comes on to bowl he thinks as a batsman and that helps him to think what the batsmen could do.”Virat Kohli
“You always have that extra bit of cushion when you have someone like that, he actually wants the ball, so that he can check the body language (of batsmen), he's really bowling well,” Virat Kohli noted in the post-match presentation after India's 28-run win over Bangladesh.
Just a few months ago, Pandya was in the eye of a storm for his controversial comments on TV show Koffee With Karan, but the all-rounder was first a vital cog in winning the title for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2019 and has since carried his form in the ODIs as well. It is evident that the time off the field has helped him realise the importance of what he was probably taking for granted till now and the results have shown.
An Evolved Bowler
Before the World Cup began, there was a tinge of uncertainty looming over whether Hardik Pandya could complete his full quota of 10 overs. On earlier occasions, the opposition has targeted Pandya as the weaker link in the Indian bowling, which left the team wanting on several occasions.
With due respect to Kedar Jadhav, there is little chance that he would consistently make the Indian playing XI on the back of his batting skills. The fact that he has been permanently part of India's scheme of things in the last couple of years has been due to do the support that he has provided to Pandya. Now, with Pandya confident enough to bowl his full quota, Jadhav was replaced with Dinesh Karthik against Bangladesh, who in all fairness is a better batsman.
Bowling figures of 0-31 against South Africa, 0-68 against Australia, 2-44 against Pakistan, 2-51 against Afghanistan, 1-28 against West Indies, 0-60 against England and 3-60 against Bangladesh might not seem extraordinary, but Pandya has done his job perfectly well as the fifth bowler, not allowing the opposition batsmen to cash in.
Earlier, the all-rounder was guilty of banging the ball midway too often and not pitching it up further. Pandya has improved out of sight in this dimension of his game. Now, he not only utilises the bouncer which has always been his strength, but also mixes it up with quicker good length deliveries, cutters, quick bumpers aimed at the body and slower bouncers among other variations.
A Bankable Power-Hitter
When Hardik Pandya first came into Team India, he was more of a hit or miss player who could give you some quick runs, but in short bursts. For instance, if the team required 30 off the last two overs, Pandya might come into play, but if the team required 100 off the last 10 overs, he would falter more often than not, throwing away his wicket by playing an expansive shot.
However, the Mumbai Indians maestro has matured with time and has learnt to play along the ground as well. He still retains the ability to score 30 off the last two overs, but can now score a 40-ball 70 also and bat for longer spans to see his team home.
His consistency is quite evident in his scores in the World Cup till now. A 48 against Australia, 26 against Pakistan, 46 against West Indies and 45 against England, have all come at a quick clip and have been impact performances that have either helped India set up a big total or have taken the team over the line or close to it.
(Saksham Mishra is a freelance sports journalist, justifying hours of watching sports by scribbling down a few logical lines that might just about hold your interest. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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