Hardik Pandya has bail India out in many crucial encounters in the past. Top highlights of Hardik Pandya's career and what India's expectation ahead of CWC 2023.
What’s the word which comes to mind when we think of Hardik Pandya in multilateral Asian and ICC tournaments? It’s the word ‘challenge’ - which has grown with Pandya’s stature as an international cricketer and how he loves to take them head on. The stylish cricketer not only flourishes under adverse conditions but it also brings out his true character.
Let us enumerate those innings in which Pandya has bailed India out of unpropitious circumstances, saved India’s batting order from collapse and proven himself as a big match player in high stakes multilateral events.
T20 World Cup, 2022, IND vs PAK, Melbourne Cricket Ground
Chasing a target of 160, India were in deep trouble at 31/4 at the end of poweplay. Virat Kohli scored an unbeaten 82 off 53 balls to help team India cross the final hurdle in a thrilling encounter. But the one who dropped an anchor to support Kohli was none other than Pandya - who scored a vital 40 off 36 balls to help India win. This win came after the initial blows in the powerplay - which had almost made it impossible to win for the Indian side.
T20 World Cup Semifinal, 2022, IND vs ENG, Adelaide Oval
The all-rounder again displayed his prowess with the bat in the semifinal bout when the top order again failed to put together partnerships. Pandya played a quickfire knock of 63 runs off 33 balls. This knock helped Team India post a competitive score of 168/6 in the mandated 20 overs against England in the second semi-final of the T20 World Cup at the Adelaide Oval. However, his efforts didn’t prove to be match winning as England crushed India by 10 wickets.
Champions Trophy Final, 2017, IND vs PAK, The Oval, London
Pakistan’s margin of victory in this match was the largest in any ICC ODI tournament final in terms of runs - 180 to be precise. India’s defeat came while chasing a mammoth score of 339 by Pakistan, but the only saving grace among India batters was Pandya - who scored a valiant 76 off 43 balls to keep the team’s hopes alive. This fearless innings by him in the early stage of his career had also consolidated his position in Team India.
Pandya’s form in the recently concluded overseas West Indies ODI and T20 tour wasn’t up to the mark. He could score only 5(7), 7(14) and 70(52) and took only one wicket in the 3 match ODI series and scored 19(19), 24(18), 20*(15), DNB & 14(18) and took only 4 wickets in the 5-match T20 series. Interestingly, he was also leading the side in 2 ODIs and 5 T20is, out of which the team lost 1 ODI and lost the T20 series by a 3-2 margin.
Asia Cup 2023, IND vs Pak, Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Kandy
Coming to Asia Cup 2023, Pandya took the past failures in his stride and proved his critics wrong in the high pressure and India’s opening match against Pakistan. India was reeling at 66/4 in 15 overs with its top 4 batters - Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and Virat Kohli back in the pavilion with more than 35 overs. India needed someone to stay at the crease to reach a respectable total, and Pandya alongwith Ishan Kishan and Ravindra Jadeja were the last recognised batters left.
Pandya didn’t allow the pressure to get the better of him. The pitch was assisting swing and had variable bounce and scoring through straight shots was not easy, so the master craftsman resorted to paddle sweeps and reverse sweeps against spinners to keep the scoreboard ticking. When seamers operated in between, he used well guided and angled shots to minimise the risk against variations, the inswinging yorkers and tight at stumps good length bowling.
The Pakistan skipper, Babar Azam, used his spinners - Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz - to lure him to go for the big shots but Pandya was not falling for the bait. He wasn’t relying much on 4’s and 6’s to build his innings which is highly unconventional for him and he waited for 72 balls to hit his first six.
This innings was a deft touch to the style of play of his idol, the former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The 87 runs scored by Hardik Pandya proved that he is a matured player, as he accrued 53 runs by rotating the strike instead of going for glorious 4’s and 6’s, it also proved that he is dependable and can build long partnerships whenever the team needs them.
Expectations from Hardik Pandya -' The All-rounder'
The ODI vice-captain, Pandya will play a crucial role for the Rohit Sharma-led team in the upcoming World Cup 2023 which is slated to be held in India. He is the only fast-bowling all-rounder in the current Indian setup who has the ability to clock 140+ kmph and then bats in the lower middle order facing the death overs as well to take the scoreline to 300+. He has proven his worth in chasing daunting targets with his all round hitting abilities and on numerous occasions he has bailed out India after top order collapses. His form is directly related to India’s chances in bilateral, trilateral series and tournaments, as he exudes confidence within the camp if he puts up a good show in any department in the first half of the match.
The presence of battle-hardened all-rounders is an extremely crucial cog in any team - as heavyweights like Australia and England too depend on all-rounders and elongated tails to place themselves as strong contenders of the coveted trophy.
India’s dream of repeating its past success in World Cups relies to a great extent on match winners like Hardik Pandya - who can make the tide turn at any point of time through their performance in high pressure games.
Pandya has represented India in 79 ODI matches so far, in these he has scored 1753 runs in 59 innings with an average of 34.37 and a strike rate of 111.16. He has also performed with the ball, taking 74 wickets in 73 innings at an economy rate of 5.57, and these stats are enough to present a strong case for him in the India team, which has been trying hard for years to bring an ICC trophy home.