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Hardik Pandya's captaincy in T20Is; Will it be good in the longer run?

Hardik Pandya's captaincy in T20Is; is he the right choice as skipper for India in T20Is? Checkout where all the execution went wrong against West Indies.

WI vs IND, T20I 2023: Hardik Pandya lost T20I series against West Indies by 3-2 margin. | Walking wicket (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)
Hardik Pandya lost T20I series against WI by 3-2 margin (Images: ©ICC/Twitter)

Since the 2022 World T20 debacle where India were knocked out by 10 wickets against England in the semi-final, India had won three T20I series before losing the five-match T20I series against West Indies. Hardik Pandya has been chosen to lead the T20I side since the 2022 World Cup, and the all-rounder has done fairly well before facing his first series loss as captain. For the record, Pandya has led in 16 T20Is, winning 10, losing 5 and tied one game. It was his success as Gujarat Titans skipper (winning one IPL title, and ending as runners-up in the next campaign) that the selectors have all but appointed Pandya as the leader in the shortest format of game, and simultaneously phased out the seniors.

All was good as long as Pandya was winning the T20I series. But the series loss against West Indies has exposed a few chinks in his leadership that have been repeatedly questioned by critics and former cricketers. Even his performance has taken a beating, especially with the bat.

Former India cricketer Venkatesh Prasad minced no words when he slammed Pandya, the captain. “India needs to improve their skillset. There is a hunger & intensity deficiency & often the captain looked clueless,” he said. Also, Pandya’s comment about “losing is good sometimes” post the series loss was also slammed, with Prasad stating that “process and such words are misused now”.

So, is Pandya the right choice as skipper for India in T20Is?

First, let’s take a look at the captaincy blunders committed by Pandya during the West Indies series.

Not giving Yuzvendra Chahal another over in the second T20I

West Indies were cruising to the chase of 153 in the second T20I at the Providence Stadium. They were 126/5 in the 14th over, requiring 27 runs in 36 balls. But a three-wicket 16th over bowled by Chahal turned the match on its head. Romario Shepherd was run out on the first ball before Chahal’s brilliance saw dangerous Jason Holder being stumped and Shimron Hetmyer out LBW. Chahal deserved to bowl his fourth over, but Pandya stuck to pacers and the ninth wicket pair of Akeal Hosein and Alzarri Joseph took their team home. Chahal kept waiting for his fourth over, while a tactical blunder from Pandya cost India the match.

Bowling Axar against Pooran

Earlier, in the first T20I at Tarouba, Pandya erred in giving the sixth over to left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel to bowl to left-hander Nicholas Pooran who creamed 13 runs, including a six and a four, off four balls. Pooran, who is a good striker of the ball, has a good record against the left-arm orthodox spinner, and Pandya probably missed this statistical input, and bowled Axar against the West Indian. It helped West Indies maximise the powerplay overs and gain the necessary momentum.

WI vs IND, T20I 2023_ Hardik Pandya  as a captain lost T20I series against West Indies by 3-2 margin. _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Since 2022 World T20, Hardik Pandya's strike rate in T20Is is 114.92 (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Pandya’s batting woes

A captain inspires his team by leading from the front. But more than Pandya’s poor returns with the bat, it is his approach that is hurting the team. The Pandya of old used to play in top gear right from the moment he arrived at the crease. But currently, Pandya is taking his own sweet time to settle down, consuming more dot balls while his strike rate is going for a toss.

And when he does try to hit out, he gets out. For example, in the decider, Panda was batting at a strike rate of 50, taking 16 balls to score 8. He then smashed a six next ball and then holed out in the deep. His slow approach added undue pressure on Suryakumar Yadav and also broke the momentum of setting up a good total.

Since the 2022 World T20, Hardik Pandya has scored 231 runs in 12 innings at an average of 25.66 and a strike rate of 114.92. His highest score has been 30 not out. The figures sum up the batting struggles of Pandya in T20Is.

What is the way forward?

It is apparent that Hardik Pandya is still a work in progress as a captain of the international T20I side. He says he goes by his instinct when it comes to decision-making, and accordingly makes the bowling changes. But even though T20I cricket is the fastest format of the game, it does have a place for strategy and rationalisation.

Which bowler to bowl against which batter, when to bring a particular bowler during a particular phase of the game, which bowler can be more than handy during a certain situation – all this needs more rational thinking. Also, the batting combinations during the West series had poor depth, which coach Rahul Dravid pointed out post the series loss, and that resulted in the top-order batting more conservatively to abate the risk of exposing the tailenders.

These are the pain points that captain Pandya must sort out with the team management, coaching staff and BCCI, especially, when it is clear that the all-rounder is set to lead the squad in the 2024 World T20. If the solution requires bringing in certain resources or players to fill in the gaps, then Pandya should put his foot down and get his men for India to fare well in the upcoming World T20 in 2024.

If the selectors think the coaching staff or certain players are not suited to meet the challenges of T20Is, then tough calls have to be taken or otherwise Pandya and the team would meet the same fate as the two previous T20I captains.


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