Hardik Pandya lacks clarity in batting, is inconsistent and expensive as bowler in IPL 2024 | Crickit

Hardik Pandya lacks clarity in batting, is inconsistent and expensive as bowler in IPL 2024

By, New Delhi
Apr 16, 2024 06:27 AM IST

Hardik Pandya returned to MI ahead of the 2024 season but his second homecoming hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses on and off the field.

He was their emerging star, showing glimpses of his prowess in 2015. His cameos in the lower-order played their part in Mumbai Indians’ title triumph in 2017. By 2019, he had become a household name and was amongst the leading all-rounders of the tournament and the MVP for MI and as they lifted their fourth IPL trophy. Although a back injury prevented him from rolling his arm over the next season, his X-factor with the bat and his contribution in the big matches were central to MI being crowned champions for the fifth time in 2020. He had his worst outing for MI in 2021 but silenced his detractors leading Gujarat Titans to the title in 2022 before again inspiring them to the final last season.

Mumbai Indians bowler Hardik Pandya celebrates the wicket of Chennai Super Kings batter Daryl Mitchell (PTI)
Mumbai Indians bowler Hardik Pandya celebrates the wicket of Chennai Super Kings batter Daryl Mitchell (PTI)

Hardik Pandya returned to MI ahead of the 2024 season but his second homecoming hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses on and off the field. While Hardik – the new MI captain – faced hostile crowds in both Mumbai and Ahmedabad, his leadership and tactics on the field have been questionable. Moreover, Hardik – the all-rounder has failed to deliver this season – while he seems to have lost that X-factor in his batting, his bowling has been inconsistent while leaking runs both in the powerplay and death.

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No match-winning performances and a lack of clarity in batting role

Hardik Pandya has scored 131 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 145.6 with two outright failures and two more below-par performances with the bat this season. He failed to close the match with 27 runs needed off the last two overs against the Titans. Hardik – the batter of 2017-2020 would have sealed the match for MI nine out of 10 times!

Hardik pushed himself up the order to number 5 against the Sunrisers and walked out to bat at 150 for 3 in the 11th over when MI’s scoring rate of 14.06 was still above the asking rate of 13.7. Yes, it was a tall order to gun down the highest total in IPL history but every other MI batter, with the exception of Hardik, made a run for it. The MI skipper, on the other hand, seemed totally out of it. He was dismissed for 24 off 20 deliveries which meant that he scored at a strike rate of 120 when the required strike rate when he came out to the middle was 228.6! Just for perspective, the collective strike rate of the other MI batters in the innings was 208.9!

Hardik again changed his batting position and scored just 39 off 33 deliveries from number 4 against the Capitals making him by far the slowest amongst the five MI batters who faced at least 10 deliveries in the innings. Just for perspective, they had strike rates ranging from 181.5 to 390!

Hardik could not take MI home from a dominant position against CSK in their own bastion at the Wankhede – MI needed 77 off 37 deliveries at 12.5 an over when he joined Rohit Sharma in the middle. By the time he was dismissed for just two off six deliveries in the 16th over, the required rate had soared to 16.2!

Hardik produced a cameo (6-ball 21) in the chase against RCB but the match was already sealed by the MI top 3 and the skipper was just needed to complete the formalities without any real scoreboard pressure.

Hardik’s ‘best’ performance in the competition came in a losing cause against the Royals, when he walked out in a crisis at 20 for 4 and counter-attacked scoring 34 off 21 deliveries. Even in that encounter, the timing of his dismissal and his shot selection raised a few eyebrows – he had put together 56 with Tilak Varma and needed to bat deep to take MI to a respectable total. Instead, he decided to club Yuzvendra Chahal – the best spinner of the tournament – into the stands and perished in the process.

Hardik has not produced even one solitary defining performance with the bat this season. He had three opportunities where he could have made a difference but failed. The X-factor in his batting which intimidated the best of bowling attacks is missing in this edition. He seems to have lost his hitting prowess in the middle and lower-order and not surprisingly has the lowest strike rate amongst all MI batters in the tournament. A factor which could be adding to his batting woes is the lack of clarity in his role in the line-up. Hardik has batted at four different positions and seems to be caught between playing the role of anchor/playmaker (as he did successfully for the Titans in 2022) and aggressor.

Hardik – the bowler – inconsistent and expensive

Hardik is also having a nightmare with the ball this season. He has bowled 11 overs in four innings bagging just three wickets. His bowling average of 44 places him in the bottom 5 on the list of pacers (min. 10 overs) in the tournament and his economy rate of 12 makes him the second-most expensive fast bowler of the competition after Anrich Nortje.

Despite having Jasprit Bumrah – the best limited-overs bowler in the world - in the XI, Hardik took the new ball himself in MI’s opening clash against the Titans and got hammered for 20 in his two overs in the powerplay. He did not learn from his mistakes and committed blasphemy a second time around against the Sunrisers again not opening the attack with Bumrah. Instead, he shared the new ball with Kwena Maphaka and got tonked by Travis Head as SRH smashed 81 in the powerplay. The rest is history!

To make matters worse, Hardik did not bowl in the next couple of matches against the Royals and Capitals raising speculation of injury. He delivered just one over against the Challengers and was hammered for 13. Despite having an economy rate of 11.6 in the death overs (and 13.2 in the 20th over), Hardik opted to bowl the last over of the innings against Shivam Dube and MS Dhoni and was taken to the cleaners by his master offering him length deliveries and full tosses on leg stump! From keeping CSK to a manageable 190-195, MI let them off the hook and were chasing a 200-plus total – in the final analysis, those extra 15 runs in the last over proved to be the differentiator between the two teams.

As things stand, MI find themselves reeling at number 8 on the points table with four losses from six matches. Hardik is under pressure. A bad season at the helm could not only jeopardise his future as a long-term captain of MI but also raise serious concerns over his leadership role for India. Moreover, if he continues to fail with the bat and is inconsistent with the ball, serious questions will be raised about his position in the squad for the T20 World Cup.

Hardik has found himself in a somewhat similar situation before in his career. He was in terrible form with the bat in IPL 2021 where he mustered just 127 runs in 12 matches at an average of 14 and strike rate of 113. He did not bowl a single delivery that season. Hardik made a strong statement the next season piling on 487 runs for the Titans, picking crucial wickets while leading them to the title.

The stakes are even higher this time. How he responds could define his legacy!

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