- Sanjay Sanapoori | November 10, 2022 | 12:26 am
When Hardik Pandya led Gujarat to the IPL Title, he was not satisfied. He later went on to say that he wants to win India the World Cup no matter what. After last years World Cup though, Hardik Pandya was nowhere. The selectors dropped him after he failed to prove his fitness as a bowler, leading to a host of issues for India in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Following his absence, the selectors went on to make a handful of changes. Rohit Sharma took all-format captaincy, the likes of Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were dropped, and Hardik Pandya’s status was a question.
He did not play domestic cricket, but somehow managed to come back to the IPL, which is where he proved his fitness. Leading the Gujarat Titans, Hardik Pandya started a new rise, leading commendably. With the bat, he showed versatility coming up the order and playing responsibly. His bowling though was the biggest plus as Pandya came back to show skills with the new-ball and later in the innings. He showed his ability to bowl four overs consistently, and also provide a wicket-taking option. In the current side, he is possibly India’s fastest bowler, and has the best bouncer in the line-up.
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His performance in the IPL made him an unquestionable entry. His ability makes him a player who could walk into the side solely as a batter or bowler, rather than an all-rounder. In this World Cup, Ben Stokes is possibly the only other all-rounder with such an ability. The skill he brings as a pure batter and pure bowler is where Pandya is worth gold. In the current T20 World Cup, Hardik Pandya did not come to the party much with the bat, but is doing exactly what India needs with the ball.
Against Pakistan, he was the difference in the middle-overs. Three wickets against Pakistan, hurt their progress, as Pandya stepped up in one of the biggest games of the tournament. His bowling in that game allowed India to not require Axar Patel, avoiding a Mohammad Nawaz like situation. Against Bangladesh, Pandya again, with the game in Bangladesh’s hands after the rain interruption, Pandya came up with some crucial overs. he bowled tight overs to hurt Bangladesh’s momentum.
His bowling fitness is likely to be India’s biggest difference from the last World Cup to now. With his pace and bounce, he is not an easy bowler to target. Bowling difficult overs, he has proved to be India’s trump card, with the variety in his pace and lengths he chooses. With the bat though, Pandya is yet to create an impact. His 40 against Pakistan was crucial, as it allowed Virat Kohli to have some support taking the game deep.
However, Pandya’s trademark aggressiveness is yet to be seen. He loves the big stage more than anyone, and can play well under pressure. He was rather young when he failed to convert a start in his last Semi Final in 2019, but was spectacular against Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy finals. As a batter though, he has the potential to make a huge impact. His ability to hit big always makes him a threat. With Suryakumar Yadav going well, a good knock from Pandya in the Semis and Finals will help take India to really good scores.
The balance he provides is immense, and now with a big game ahead, Pandya will want to step up even more. His desire to win a World Cup for India is greater than ever, and with two big games ahead, the onus is on him to push India forward. Recent records in knockout games have not been good for India. The maturity shown by Pandya though could be the difference they need now.