Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand. Beholds true in the case of Hardik Pandya. The barrage of criticism on him had been unprecedented after the Lord’s test. Moreover, the hunt for a scapegoat stopped right at him for his indifferent performances. While Pandya hadn’t stood out yet in the first few games, he was still doing better than his teammates.
The second highest run scorer in the series from a batting line-up that boasts of classical test batsmen like Vijay, Rahane and Pujara. The right arm medium pacer had also done well at Lord’s picking three wickets as the third seamer. However, the burden of expectations from him was at another level. Comparisons of him with Kapil Dev make as much sense as that of Babar Azam with Virat Kohli.
For a youngster who just completed his first year in Test cricket, his records were decent. India has been facing a dearth of fast bowling all-rounders for a long time now. A whole generation of such cricketers came by and disappeared within the thin air in a flash. The reason that Hardik Pandya has survived is that of his constant gush to prosper. He may not have the valour of Kallis or the audacity of an Andrew Flintoff. But there’s little doubt about the bloke’s enthusiasm on the field.
It was on the second session of Day 2 when Pandya hogged the limelight. On his very first ball, he got rid of the dangerous Joe Root. However, it was in his fourth over that he created havoc in the English batting lineup. Both Bairstow and Woakes were back to the pavilion within a space of six balls. Pandya’s line and length were absolutely phenomenal and there was no stopping him. He picked up a couple of more wickets in his next over. Pandya, the all-rounder who was severely being denounced before the game had risen up with a fifer.
No mountain is out of reach if you keep climbing and Pandya was on his way scaling it. India were 282/5 and needed quick runs before they could put England to bat. It was Hardik’s turn to deliver with the bat and he did it in style. Scoring a ravishing half century at a strike rate of 100. He ensured India set a target of above 500 and also got England to face some overs before the close of play.
Over the years, we’ve seen agile fast bowling all-rounders emerging from different teams like Holder, Stokes and Woakes. Their dynamism in the field is what makes them praiseworthy. While Pandya has managed to do so in the limited overs format, he is slowly making a space for him in the Test side as well. And if anything, the Trent Bridge test was like reinforcing a big statement to all his detractors.
As a batsman, he’s quite determined to make things happen. His willingness to come out and bat at any position for the team’s cause is exemplary, to say the least. A strong performer coming at No.6-7 is always a delightful scene to watch. And throughout the series, he has batted with much better discipline. Pandya has tried to adapt to the situation and be a team man.
When the strike bowlers are rejuvenated, he comes in the fascination of picking a wicket or two. Kohli made him bowl just six overs but the impact he created within that time well made the difference. The biggest trait of Hardik Pandya is that while he doesn’t aim for perfection, he strives on improvising consistently. That is also why he enjoys the constant backing of the captain and the team management.
He may still be a bits and pieces cricketer, no denying that. But his versatility as a cricketer makes him a valuable asset in the Indian team. Hardik Pandya is not an all-rounder that a cricket aficionado may derive awe from. But he certainly is the all-rounder India needs right now. As long as he ticks those boxes, he will continue to be persisted with and rightly so.