Hardik Pandya: The key to India’s success
Updated: Jun 15, 2019
The flamboyant all-rounder is India’s ‘X-factor’ and could make all the difference to The Men In Blue’s fortunes at cricket’s showpiece event.
India kicks off their campaign against South Africa at Southampton today, and while all eyes will be on their famed top-order and versatile bowling unit, the key to India’s success at The World Cup could lie elsewhere, perhaps in the hands of its flamboyant all-rounder – Hardik Pandya.
The highly accomplished top-order of The Men in Blue comprising Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and skipper Virat Kohli, with over 24,000 runs and almost 80 centuries between them in this format, are expected to deliver more often than not. It is their suspect middle-order that raises a cause for concern. Whether its K.L. Rahul, with his temperament still in question, or Vijay Shankar, highly inexperienced at this level, neither of them really inspires confidence at the no.4 slot in the manner that Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli did (whenever they batted at this position). M.S. Dhoni is not the same force that he used to be and at no.5, does not lend the batting the much- needed solidity that a Rahul Dravid or Yuvraj Singh provided. Finally at no.6 they have Kedar Jadav, who despite his large-hearted performances thus far, isn’t really going to keep opposition captains up at night. In the highly unlikely but plausible scenario of their top-order failing, the brittle middle-order will then stand exposed, which could be a genuine worry for every Indian fan. Thankfully India already have a sound solution in place to combat such a precarious situation. Enter Hardik Pandya.
The dashing all-rounder is the ideal man coming in at no.7 for the Indians. In the event of the entire top 6 failing, he is more than capable of rallying with the tail and rescuing India’s innings. He served notice of that ability in The Champions Trophy final of 2017; top scoring with 76 runs after his team’s famed batting line-up capitulated in the face of Pakistan’s explosive pace attack. India still ended up losing that match but Pandya had clearly demonstrated he had various facets to his batting. In a diametrically opposite scenario- where the batting clicks, Pandya can then come in and give the innings the impetus it requires towards the back end of the innings. He aptly demonstrated this in the same tournament (CT’17) against Pakistan in the group stages, when he smote Imad Wasim for a hat-trick of sixes to end India’s innings (and many more since) and propel the team’s score from 299 to 319 in just an over. He has become prolific in playing the role of ‘The Finisher’ as his exploits in the IPL and in India colours have shown. His uninhibited hitting has come to the aid of his franchise The Mumbai Indians’ on several occasions, be it in swelling his team’s score or winning matches from seemingly hopeless positions. He is an explosive bat who can play the ‘rescuer’ role as well as the ‘finisher’ one with equal aplomb.
Similarly, India’s much-vaunted bowling attack of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja (depending on which 4 play) will fire most of the time but on the odd occasion that one of them has an off day, Kohli can always turn to Pandya’s medium pace bowling to make up for it. He is known to give the team crucial breakthroughs, at exactly the right time and although he has miles to go as a bowler, he has vastly improved since he burst on the scene in early 2016.
Hardik Pandya gives the team the perfect balance that it needs. The all-rounder gives Kohli the luxury of having another pace bowling option and allows the skipper to go in with 5 quality bowlers at all times. In addition to that, his enormous batting potential also ensures that the team bats deep and gives the required cushion (in rescuing or finishing an innings) they so desperately lacked. No to mention, he is an absolute gun fielder and has taken some spectacular catches while also affecting some amazing saves, in his time in an Indian jersey. He is a massive asset for The Men in Blue to have and could well be the difference to India’s fortunes at The World Cup.
While all the focus will be on Kohli and Bumrah- the leaders of the batting and bowling units respectively- during the tournament, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to fathom that the keys to the kingdom for Team India may well and truly lie in the hands of its ‘X-factor’, one Mr. Hardik Pandya.