Hardik Pandya has been on top of his game ever since he made his debut for the Indian team in limited overs cricket. Contributing heavily with bat, ball and his acrobatic fielding skills, questions are being raised as to, Is he the next Kapil Dev?
17th October 1995! This was the day when Kapil Dev played his last match for India against West Indies. Since then, India have been looking for a top-class all-rounder to fill his shoes. Many players have tried to fill his shoes with Ajit Agarkar coming the closest. For two decades, India did not find another Kapil Dev but now it looks like they may have found the Haryana Hurricane’s ideal replacement in Hardik Pandya
Humble Beginnings of Allrounder Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya was born in Surat. His father Himanshu ran a car finance business in the city until he shut it down in 1998 to move to Baroda where his sons could receive better cricket coaching.
Pandya’s family was financially unstable so they had to live in a rented apartment at the Gorwa residential area. Hardik and his brother Krunal enrolled themselves into Kiran More’s Cricket Academy. The two used a rented car to travel from their house to the academy.
Pandya studied at MK High School till 9th grade before dropping out in order to focus more on cricket.
Progression to first class cricket and IPL
Pandya made steady progress in junior cricket and established himself as one of the state’s most talented cricketers. However, his attitude was an issue. Pandya himself revealed in an interview with the Indian Express that he was dropped from Gujarat’s age-group teams due to his attitude problems.
At the age of 20, Pandya made his first-class debut for Baroda. He played an important role in Baroda lifting the 2013-14 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 219 runs with the bat and picking up 11 wickets with the ball at an impressive economy rate of 5.78.
Pandya’s exploits in the domestic circuit earned him a call-up to the Mumbai Indians side for IPL 2015. This was to be a breakthrough tournament for Pandya. Pandya scored an 8-ball cameo of 21 against Chennai Super Kings at Chennai. This helped Mumbai Indians pull off a crucial victory. After this game, team mentor Sachin Tendulkar told Pandya that he would be playing for India within the next 18 months.
6 days later, he scored a 31-ball 61 against Kolkata Knight Riders which helped Mumbai Indians win the game and keep their play-off hopes alive. Mumbai Indians eventually went on to win the tournament.
Baby steps with India for the Resurgent Hardik Pandya
Sachin Tendulkar told Hardik Pandya that he would play for India within 18 months but it took only 7 months before he received his call-up to the national side. Pandya found a place in India’s T20 team for their Tour of Australia which also saw the return of Ashish Nehra.
Pandya made his international debut for India against Australia on Republic Day 2016 at Adelaide. He was expensive, conceding 37 runs in three overs but he did pick up two wickets. He picked another wicket in the second T20I at Melbourne.
India’s T20I against Sri Lanka at Ranchi marked the first instance when Hardik Pandya was touted as India’s next big all-rounder. Coming in at No.5, Pandya scored 27 from just 12 deliveries to help India reach a mammoth total of 196/6.
Hardik Pandya soon became a regular for India as he was chosen in India’s squad for their victorious Asia Cup campaign where he took 7 wickets including a spell of 3/8 against Pakistan. As a result of his performances at the Asia Cup, Pandya was in the squad for the World T20. This would be his first major tournament.
One of Pandya’s finest cricketing moments will be bowling the final over Bangladesh where he had to defend 7 runs. Bangladesh needed just 2 to win from the final 3 balls and Pandya took two wickets in the next two deliveries. The final ball ended in a run out and India won the match by a run.
Overall, Hardik Pandya was pretty expensive at the World T20 going at an economy of over 10 an over. He also bowled a no-ball off which hero of the match Lendl Simmons was caught.
ODI Debut and rising up the ranks for Indian Allrounder Hardik Pandya
After impressing in IPL 2016, the powerful Hardik Pandya was called up to the Indian ODI team for their series against New Zealand. He made his debut in the first game at Dharamsala and took 3/31. This spell earned him the Man of the Match award. Pandya did not bowl too well during the remainder of the series as he was expensive with the ball. With the bat, Pandya scored 45 runs from two innings.
His next series was against England in January 2017. He had a pretty good showing during the series. He took five wickets with the ball and scored 115 runs with the bat at an average of 115. Pandya also scored his first fifty in international cricket during the final ODI at Eden Gardens. He did not have a good showing in the T20 series as he went wicket-less and scored only 22 runs from three innings.
Pandya then put up a decent performance during IPL 2017, scoring 250 runs at a strike rate of 156.25 and picked up 6 wickets with the ball. He then found a place for the squad to play in the Champions Trophy in England. During the tournament, Pandya took four wickets with the ball and scored 105 runs with the bat. In the final against Pakistan at The Oval, Pandya tried to bring India back in the game through his 43-ball 76. However, he ran himself out due to some miscommunication between himself and Ravindra Jadeja.
Test Debut and first Man of the Series award
Shortly after the Champions Trophy, Pandya got a call-up to the Test team for India’s Tour of Sri Lanka He made his debut at Galle and scored a 49-ball 50. In the final Test, Pandya registered his first international century by scoring 108 off just 96 deliveries. This knock rightfully earned him the Man of the Match award.
Following the Test series, Pandya took four wicktets during the ODI series and scored 19 from 2 innings. Pandya’s next assignment was the series against Australia. Here, he produced his finest performance in a series. Pandya was brilliant with both bat and ball throughout the series. He scored 222 runs at an average of 55.50 and picked up 6 wickets with the ball. He eventually won the Player of the Series award. Pandya’s performance during the T20 series was pretty much lukewarm.
In the recently concluded ODI series against Kiwis, Hardik Pandya scored 54 runs with the bat and took two wickets. His performance during the T20 series was a forgettable one. He scored 15 runs and picked up a wicket from three matches. In all three games, he went for more than 10 runs an over.
Nevertheless, Hardik Pandya has performed brilliantly for India in the past couple of months and is considered as one of the finest all-rounders of the sport presently, at least in the limited –overs format. He will be a crucial member for India when they Tour South Africa next year and for the 2019 World Cup as well. Provided Pandya keeps up his performances, then India may have well found the ideal individual to fill Kapil Dev’s shoes.