Is the long wait for Kapil Dev’s Successor over?
Hardik Pandya promises to be the all-rounder that India have been searching for since the retirement of the legendary Kapil Dev.
For almost 22 years, ever since India’s greatest all-rounder Kapil Dev represented the nation for the very last time, India has searched in vain for his successor. Many have been tried over the years, to fill this most vital position in a team, one that lends it the perfect balance and provides the captain with an additional option in either core segment, if needed.
Talented players like Robin Singh, R. Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, and even Bhuvaneshwar Kumar were either experimented with or considered for the all-important role. Yet despite all of them possessing the right credentials, they all were missing that crucial element that keeps opposition teams up at night and their own ones at peace– explosiveness! All all-rounders are precious commodities but an explosive one who can take a game by the scruff of its neck and turn it on its head with either bat or ball and sometimes even in the field is priceless. And India was in dire need of one.
That search seems to have ended with the arrival of a phenomenal talent named Hardik Pandya. Like Kapil, he is an explosive batsman who also bowls fast medium. But he seems more of a batting all-rounder than a seam bowling one, which his more illustrious predecessor was. He certainly has the X-factor though, be it in batting, bowling or fielding, and it is this element that has convinced the Indian team that they have finally found the missing piece of the puzzle, in their quest for world domination.
But before we get carried away by Pandya’s extraordinary talent though, let us not forget that the young lad’s career has only just commenced. He has a long way to go before he can be compared with his legendary countryman. He however made an eventful beginning to his international career when he grabbed 2 wickets on his debut with the senior side, in a T20 game against Australia in January 2016. Even though he went for quite a few runs, his lively medium pace and athletic fielding was enough for people to sit up and take notice of his talent. He made a greater impact on his ODI debut against New Zealand later that year, when he turned in a man of the match performance by grabbing 3 wickets for 37 runs in the 7 overs that he bowled. He opened the bowling that day and what was noticeable was the extra yard of pace that he had added since he was first seen in India colours. And his batting prowess was finally on show in the Champions Trophy, when in both games against arch- rival Pakistan, he first smoked consecutive sixes of the last 2 deliveries of the Indian innings en route to a quick-fire 20 off only 6 balls and then turned in a solo performance in the final when he looked like pulling off an improbable win with a devastating 76 runs off only 43 balls before he was run-out. His ability to hit towering sixes from his crease was reminiscent of Kapil in his heyday.
His unbelievable calmness in the face of searing pressure convinced the selectors that this mature young man was ready to represent India in the highest form of the game and blooded him in the Test series against Sri Lanka in July of this year. He made a half- century in his first hit at Test level and also scalped his maiden wicket in Sri Lanka’s first innings. Though the remainder of his debut was sedate, it set it up for what was to follow later in the series. He exploded in the 3rd test match with a blistering 108 off just 96 deliveries, with 8 fours and 7 powerfully struck sixes. He had announced his arrival in Test cricket and the cricket world recognized this emerging young talent by duly awarding him the man of the match award.
His growing stature was further enhanced when he won the man of the series award in the recently concluded ODI series between India and Australia. In the first match, in the company of Dhoni he rescued India from a perilously placed 87/5 to a final score of 281, in the process registering his highest ODI score of 83 and followed it up with 2 wickets to lead India to a 26 run win. An all-round man of the match performance in the first was followed by another man of the match performance in the 3rd where he anchored a tricky chase with a mature and well compiled 78 to seal the series for India.
Hardik Pandya has certainly made rapid strides in International Cricket but his true test awaits- on the upcoming aware tours to South Africa and England. If he can become a more consistent and skillful wicket taker in swinging and seaming conditions, then India would have truly found a worthy successor to Kapil Dev.