One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that India have been lacking the presence of an impactful and effective pace bowling all-rounder in the recent times. Being a fast bowling all-rounder is undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs in cricket. It’s a known fact that a fast bowler has a lesser shelf like as compared to a batsman and needs a horse like stamina. And to be an all-rounder, he needs to give equal attention to his batting as well. Since Kapil Dev’s retirement, India have not had the privilege of having a champion seam bowling all-rounder at their service. Kapil Dev’s potential and talent was unquestionable, he was menacing with the ball and garnered crucial runs with the bat.
India failed to defend their ICC Champions Trophy title as Pakistan beat them convincingly in the final to lift the title for the first time on Sunday. India’s batting floundered like nine pins and Hardik Pandya’s counter-attack was the only moment of glory from Indian innings. Pandya’s innings infused energy which was turning out to be rather dull innings. He smashed six sixes and four boundaries against a bowling attack where his imminent peers struggled to get going. India were precariously placed at 54 for 5 when Hardik Pandya took guard while chasing a target of 339 at The Oval. His side has lost most of the batsmen and a victory from this juncture looked improbable.
By looking at the way things had fared in the Indian innings, it was difficult to predict if India could breach the 100-run mark. But Hardik played an innings of substance and quality for his 76 off 43 deliveries and ensured India didn’t lose by a massive margin. Hardik was unfortunate to have been run-out after being such a terrific form. Looking at the way he was striking the ball, he looked good for a century and even more. He was striking the ball clean and took on the pumped Pakistani bowlers with unmatched confidence.
India lost the crucial encounter by 180 runs and with it the title. At first, Hardik bowled well and then gave something to the Indian fans to cheer for with the bat. If Hardik continues to produce such brilliance on a consistent basis, that day is not very far when he will evolve as a champion pace bowling all-rounder. India seems to be investing in him and groom him so that he is developed into a force by the time 2019 World Cup is near. Prior to the start of the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy, it was not even certain that Hardik will find a place in the playing XI. With India having a dominant pace attack to choose from, Hardik’s inclusion was slightly dicey. But his presence in every game is a testament to the fact that India have bigger plans for Hardik Pandya in the upcoming time.
India had the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami to choose from. For the first two games, they played three seamers and Hardik along with a spinner. After the loss against Sri Lanka in the second game, it looked like India would opt for a spinner at the expense of either Umesh Yadav or Hardik Pandya. And they persisted with Hardik. The lanky all-rounder still has a long way to go and has to learn a lot with the bat as well as with the ball. But he has the hunger for success and has the ingredient to achieve it.
Hardik played five games in the Champions Trophy and walked out to bat on three occasions. Hardik garnered 105 runs at a healthy average of 52.50 but his awe-inspiring strike-rate of 194.44 is what catches the eye. But with the ball, he has had a bumpy ride in the tournament. In five games, Pandya bowled extremely well in three outings but leaked runs in a couple of occasions, which was probably due to inexperience. Hardik was taken for runs against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the semi-final but did well by bouncing back in the final against Pakistan.
Hardik needs to pull up on his bowling a bit. He has some good pace and usually bowls in higher 130s. But it is his line and length, where he needs improvement. Hardik often uses two short balls in his over to get away, which is an indication of him being under pressure. He is surely a fifth bowler but his failure with the ball in a couple of games puts the skipper under pressure and compel him to look for other options. In the tournament, Haridk bowled 39 overs in five games and had four wickets to his name at 58.25. These numbers certainly need to be better if Hardik is eyeing to develop into a productive bowler. Hardik has a good height to his advantage and should bring it into play while bowling.
Hardik is always exciting to watch at the crease, his batting doesn’t have any half measures and looks to attack right from the outset. With Hardik, things are pretty simple – there is either frustration or jubilation. Entertainment and fireworks are always on the cards when Hardik takes guard. He was outstanding with the bat in the Indian Premier League and did reasonably well in the Champions Trophy too. But Hardik needs to do it on a consistent basis. His success with the bat in the lower middle-order will strengthen the batting and give the top-order a psychological advantage and further easing the pressure. He bats at number seven and his primary role is that of a finisher. With MS Dhoni being in the twilight of his career, the baton could well be passed on to Hardik, who certainly seems to be the perfect candidate for it.
If Hardik manages to score brisk runs on a consistent basis and enhance his bowling, he will certainly emerge as one of the best all-rounders in international cricket. With 2019 World Cup approaching, Hardik Pandya’s development into an established seam bowling all-rounder will only give an advantage to India. An all-rounder is like gold in any format, he brings depth and stability in the line-up and also gives an option to the skipper. As of now, Hardik has raised immense hopes and looks promising; with age being on his side and plenty of learning on the way, one can only expect him to get better