Flamboyant Hardik Pandya potentially India’s next Kapil Dev

Hardik Pandya’s ability to bat at No.6 and fondness to experiment with his bowling makes the all-rounder effective in a variety of conditions. Is he India’s next Kapil Dev?

cricket Updated: Oct 15, 2017 08:30 IST
Hardik Pandya,Kapil Dev,Indian cricket team
Hardik Pandya has excelled of late, both with the bat and ball, for the Indian cricket team.(AFP)

Hardik Pandya is potentially the pace bowling all-rounder India has craved since Kapil Dev retired. Pandya is a huge hit with the fans and was partly responsible for India dominating Australia in the recent ODI series.

However, his biggest influence on the team could come in the Test arena.

A player like Pandya, who has the ability to bat in the top six and also bowl at 140 kph gives a Test side the flexibility that leads to success in all conditions. It affords India the opportunity to field a balanced attack of five bowlers no matter what the conditions.

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Pandya not only has the skill to perform the role successfully but now that he’s achieving consistency at international level, his confidence has soared. He also has the added attribute of being prepared to experiment and consequently his bowling is likely to be effective under a variety of conditions.

All-rounders with those attributes have the ability to change the course of a game quickly and in doing so, inspire their team mates.

For India to be regarded as a truly great side they need to perform well in tough conditions and against extremely competitive opponents like Australia and South Africa. If Pandya can adapt his bowling to succeed in those cauldrons - and there’s no reason he can’t - then India, with a strong batting line-up, is more likely to experience consistent overseas success.

The other challenge Pandya will face - especially in Australia - is the needling high-profile players receive from the crowds. This can have the effect of being either an inspiration or an imposition and the way Pandya handles the intense barracking will contribute to either his success or failure.

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If he needs inspiration in this regard he only needs look to former Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad. Miandad could be as annoying as a shovel grating on cement and he was constantly heckled in Australia but that only made him more determined.

Eventually Miandad was begrudgingly accorded the highest Australian sporting compliment; “He’s a bloody annoying opponent but we’d love to have him on our side.”

With his flamboyant style, Pandya reminds me a little of the electrifying England all-rounder Ben Stokes; the outstanding and highly combative cricketer on the field rather than the citizen with a propensity for self-destruction off it.

Both players are aggressive in their approach and this often results in a match-changing performance or a deflating and spectacular misfire. Neither is concerned with containment and this can lead to the odd profligate spell of bowling.

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Equally, their predatory batting approach is prone to occasional outlandish dismissals that leave fans groaning. However, when they succeed it can lead to quick runs or wickets in clumps, either of which can change the course of a match.

At this stage Stokes has done it at Test level while Pandya only has the potential for such electrifying achievements. This type of player reminds me of a colourful description that radio commentator Johnny Moyes once utilised to describe South Australia’s captain and ultra-aggressive opener.

“We all know Les Favell,” Moyes began, “some days he does and some days he doesn’t. Well today he did.”

Fans flock to the ground to watch electrifying players like Stokes and Pandya. They hope to witness something exceptional, so then they can boast; “Well today he did.”

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Pandya left his imprint on the ODI series against Australia when he plundered three successive sixes off the bowling of leg-spinner Adam Zampa in Chennai. India went on to win that game after being in a precarious position when Pandya joined MS Dhoni at the crease.

In other matches of that series Pandya made useful contributions with both bat and ball but it was only the Chennai performance that could be classed as match-winning. If Pandya can perform at a similar level in the Test arena, then he’ll not only be regarded as a top-class all-rounder but he’ll also improve India’s chances of winning worldwide.

(Ian Chappell, former Australian cricket team captain, writes exclusively for Hindustan Times. The opinions expressed in this article are personal)

First Published: Oct 15, 2017 08:23 IST