Hardik has often been criticised for not having played a role of an all-rounder when the team needed him the most. But since he made his comeback from injury to the national side in June this year, bowling again at full tilt, Hardik has emerged as a serious match-winner with both bat and ball ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia. For many, he is the most valuable player in the Indian team currently.
The 28-year-old flamboyant cricketer seems much more relaxed and subdued now. He lets the bat and ball do the talking and continues to silence his critics with his performances. Hardik the batter’s ability to take the bowlers to the cleaners is no secret but his resurgence as bowler seems to have fixed the problem for India of having a pace bowling all-rounder. His inclusion adds a lot of balance to the team, giving Rohit Sharma that crucial extra seamer option – something that Pakistan didn’t have in their match vs India on Sunday.
The comeback is greater than the setback 🇮🇳 https://t.co/KlnD4GZ4ZO
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1661751880000
A fully recuperated Hardik can now generate pace at will and has been consistently bowling 140 kmph plus. He also has multiple variations, including a potent fast short ball in his armoury that hurried and troubled Pakistan batsmen in the Asia Cup match on Sunday.
Hardik dished out an all-round effort in the match, first returning figures of 3 for 25 and then held his nerve in the nail-biter of a chase, scoring an unbeaten 33 off 17 balls. The way he finished off the match with a six was another reminder of just how confident he is of his own abilities.
His confidence was on display when he nodded at his partner Dinesh Karthik after the third ball of the last over of the Indian innings, bowled by Mohammad Nawaz, went for a dot. It was a message to say – ‘Don’t worry, I have this under control.’
Image credit: BCCI
Life in a way came full circle for Hardik on Sunday. It was at the same venue at which he was stretchered off the field in a 2018 Asia Cup group match against Pakistan.
“I remembered it all. I was going out on a stretcher and it was the same dressing room,” Pandya said after the game vs Pakistan on Sunday. “I feel a sense of achievement because of how things unfolded and the way I got this opportunity.
Pandya acknowledged that staying calm in tense situations helps him execute all his plans.
We fought. We fought real hard! And we’ll keep fighting 🇮🇳 https://t.co/7esrZxg74l
— hardik pandya (@hardikpandya7) 1661713828000
“In all these years I’ve understood that if I stay as calm as possible, it’s going to help me to execute all my plans,” the 28-year-old said after collecting the Man of the Match prize for his 33* off 17 balls and 3/25. “The 50-50 chances which I take, if I’m calmer, it helps me to pull it off.”
Pandya said he was clear about how to accomplish the chase and knew the pressure was more on the bowler at that stage.
“We only needed 7 off the last over but even if we needed 15, I’d have fancied myself (my chances). I know the bowler is under more pressure than me in the 20th over. I try to keep things simple,” said Pandya.
Since his comeback to the national side, Hardik has, in many ways, turned into a more mature cricketer, very acutely aware of the role he is expected to play. He played a pivotal role in the Indian team’s recent victories against South Africa, England, Ireland and West Indies. In many ways Hardik 2.0 was on display in the last edition of the IPL as well.
Since June 9 of this year, Hardik has played 14 T20Is and 3 ODIs.
In this period, in the shortest format, Hardik has scored 314 runs, at an average of 34.88 and an impressive strike rate of 144.03. In the same period, he has taken 11 wickets to his name. In the three ODIs he has played since his comeback, Hardik has scored 100 runs and taken six wickets.
The world witnessed Hardik Pandya 2.0 when he took Indian Premier League debutants Gujarat Titans to a fairytale title win in May. He led his team from the front with 487 runs and eight wickets in 15 matches which earned him a recall for June’s Twenty20 series against South Africa.
It’s this new version of Hardik, a potential future India captain for many experts, that the fans would like to see more of in the near future, especially at the next edition of the ICC T20 World Cup – a tournament India have not managed to win a second time yet, since the inaugural edition title win in 2007, under the talismanic MS Dhoni.