Hardik Pandya is a classic example of how a player can develop both skill-wise and confidence-wise, if he has the backing of the team management. Pandya is slowly but surely making a mark to the extent that he could soon become an integral part of the national team. And the way he’s being groomed, there’s little doubt that they see in him something that doesn’t meet the common eye.
A medium-pacer, who can bat is always an asset in English conditions, and Pandya showed that during the high-voltage ICC Champions Trophy match against Pakistan at Edgbaston. His position was questioned after the surprising loss to Sri Lanka and many called for his head in the next game but having put his money on this guy, Kohli gave him a longer rope. He might not have had a bat against the Proteas but his bowling was certainly tested against a batting line-up comprising the best in world cricket. It was only the second time that he bowled his full quota of ten overs in ODIs and the way he came back after an initial onslaught from the opposition spoke volumes about his character.
However it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the swash buckling all-rounder from Baroda. Constantly criticised in the media for his overly flamboyant portrayal of glittering and glimmering accessories that sometimes gets synchronized with an apparent show of arrogance; Hardik Pandya comes from a humble background where his father had to work really hard in order for him and his brother to procure the proper education needed in order to excel in life. Former Indian cricketer Kiran More trained the Pandya brothers and did not charge any fee for the first three years in his cricket academy in Baroda. During his starting days, Hardik had to borrow a bat from teammate Irfan Pathan to play in the Vijay Hazare Trophy of 2014.
He wrote the first chapter of his career after smashing 82 off 57 balls against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2014. Thereafter, he showed dominant performances to become a regular in their side. Not only did Hardik’s impressive showing earn him a place in Baroda’s Ranji Trophy team but he was also bought at a base price of Rs 10 lakh by the Nita Ambani-owned Mumbai Indians’ outfit in 2015.
After exceeding expectations for MI as an all-rounder and contributing to the eventual title win, the 23-year-old was selected for the three-match T20I series against Australia in January 2016. He managed to take just three wickets and conceded 78 runs overall in the series. This was followed by a slump in his bowling as he endured a tough time against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and it continued in the ICC World T20 at home. The all-rounder had a bland IPL post the World Cup, which led to his omission from the Indian team for the tour of Zimbabwe in June.
But amidst all the anguish, Hardik Pandya fought back and worked hard to eventually see his name in the One-Day International team list against New Zealand in October 2016. And, he did not disappoint. The all-rounder picked up three wickets along with the Man-of-the-Match award on his ODI debut.
Hardik was soon called for the Test series against England in November 2016, which meant that after T20I and ODI debuts, the stage was set for his first step in Tests. Before the series, Hardik had only played 16 First-Class matches, scoring 727 runs at 27.96 with a best of 90 and 22 wickets at 33.72, with a solitary five-wicket haul. But his debut in the longest format was not to be. Unfortunately, he sustained a hairline fracture on his right shoulder in Mohali during a nets session and was released from the test squad against England. He was forced to take a six-week layoff where he managed to get his act together and brush aside the ‘injury-prone’ tag.
A fit-again Hardik was selected again for the ODI series against England – where he bounced back with two wickets and an unbeaten 40 to help India to a win in the first match. And he hasn’t looked back since.
The turning point for Hardik was during India A’s tour of Australia in 2016 under Rahul Dravid’s guidance – playing a quadrangular ODI series and two unofficial Tests with Australia A. The youngster showed signs of major development in his execution Down Under, proving to be more than a handful with the bat. While he continues to stress on his batting abilities being far more refined than that of his bowling, the team needs a finisher who can consistently bowl ten overs in ODIs without giving away too many.
Can Hardik Pandya be the one?