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Hardik Pandya: The much needed fast bowling all rounder

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Hardik_Pandya_India_cricketIndia is famous for spoiling any budding talent whenever a missing piece seems to fit into the jigsaw. This is not an attempt to cast doubt on the talent, but to look at the ramifications of this player if he fits into that jigsaw. This article is not meant to eulogise the youngster, but to bring to the fore the indispensability of A Fast Bowling All Rounder.

It is no secret that India has been in need of a fast bowling all rounder. The length of time since the last fast bowling all rounder can be gauged by the fact that there have been articles on Abhimanyu Mithun being the fast bowling all rounder India needs. India has produced many spin bowling all rounders, but the problem is that outside the subcontinent these spin bowling all rounders were exposed as pseudo all rounders, and the team would end up stuck with a lower order batsman not good enough to bat in those conditions and a spin bowler not required in those conditions.

The fast bowling all rounder is a rare commodity in international cricket. We will not dwell too much on numbers to gauge their effect. Rather, we need to look at the change they brought to the team with their skill sets. Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee, to name a few, were the difference between a mediocre and a formidable team. Of course, others like Gary Sobers and Jacques Kallis, made an already strong team stronger.

 

Such is the awe of these all rounders that even after twenty years after their retirement Pakistan is still searching for the new Imran Khan, as is India for their Kapil Dev or England for their Ian Botham. Any performance in these categories quickly grabs the limelight, a perfect example being the performance of Ben Stokes when he scored a century in the Ashes in his second Test. It was only his recent contributions against Australia and South Africa which indicated that he belonged to this exalted category. Or the difference Andrew Flintoff made to that 2005 Ashes team both with the bat and ball.

India has not found its Kapil Dev, but there is something exciting for them in this category: Hardik Pandya has been doing a reasonably good job in the T20 cricket he has played for India. The youngster from Vadodara came into the limelight in IPL 2015 when he bailed out the Mumbai Indians against Chennai Super Kings, hitting decisive three sixes in the penultimate over to seal the win. He also scored a vital 61 off 31 in a must win game against KKR. Looking at his numbers, he was the top scorer of the domestic T20 competition, the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy 2015-16, with 377 runs, in addition to which he took 10 wickets at an economy rate of 6.58.

He is slotted to come down the order for India in the upcoming World T20 matches as a finisher. With Dhoni’s prowess as a hitter dwindling, India is lucky to find a batsman for this slot before Dhoni bows out. He can also be used as a middle order batsman in the vein of Jos Buttler, Glenn Maxwell or AB de Villiers. “Pinch hitter” is a term cricket has done away with, as there are proper batsmen promoted up the order to provide the impetus. Though he needs to improve his batting significantly to represent the country in the 50 overs format, India want him to fulfil the role of an Andre Russell.

There has never been a dearth of batting talent in India, so it is not Pandya’s batting or hitting that has excited the Indian fans, but the contribution he makes with the ball. In the four Asia Cup games that he played, he picked up 1, 3, 2 and 1 i.e. 7 wickets in four games. It is not the wickets alone, but the fact that he has crossed 140 kmph a few times. It is vital that the captain has enough confidence in him to give him 4 overs in a T20.

Despite being erratic a few times, there is much to look forward to from him in the T20 World Cup.

 


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