Hardik Pandya Out Swings His Critics With Maiden 5 Wicket Haul
Is Hardik Pandya a batsman? Or a bowler?
What is Hardik Pandya exactly? Is he a batsman? Or is he a bowler? Can we really call him an all-rounder? These were the questions that were raised by a major faction of the cricket fraternity considering the way he had performed until the beginning of the third Test at Trent Bridge. 90 runs at an average of 22.50 and 3 wickets at an average of 37.33 were his all-round returns from the first two Tests; numbers which are certainly not impressive. Yet, deeper analysis revealed that the number of deliveries faced by him (166) in those two Tests was the next best to that of Virat Kohli who had faced the most number of deliveries (404) among Indian batsmen.
Moreover, the spell of 3/66 he bowled at Lord’s summed up his capabilities as a bowler too. Those were the best figures for an Indian bowler in that innings and the most economical too. Despite the promise he showed and all the attempts he was making to give his best, Pandya received a lot of criticism from a major faction of the fans and pundits. Former West Indies fast bowling legend Michael Holding is one amongst that vast faction as well.
“Pandya, it seems as if he’s the golden boy in this team. Everyone thinks he’s going to be the next Kapil Dev. He hasn’t shown that yet. Why not pick a batsman (instead)? Pandya got a few runs in the second innings but is he a better batsman than Pujara? I don’t think so, and you don’t need him as a bowler in my eyes,” Holding said after India lost at Edgbaston.
Not only Holding, there have been others too who have questioned Pandya's role and necessity in the Test team. Harbhajan Singh is of the opinion that Pandya doesn't deserve to be called an all-rounder as he doesn't contribute equally in both departments.
"We have to remove the all-rounder tag from him as an all-rounder contributes in both the departments as Stokes, Curran did in the first Test and now Woakes has done at the Lord’s. The same is expected of Hardik Pandya, he cannot become Kapil Dev overnight,” Singh said while speaking to Aaj Tak.
Little did they realize that the 24-year old Baroda all-rounder will make them eat their words soon. Although he managed only 18 runs with the bat in the first innings this time at Trent Bridge, he brought out the best of his bowling abilities and blew England completely away with a scintillating five-wicket haul.
In a spell of 6-1-28-5, Pandya showed what a bowler he can be if he keeps bowling full and in the right channels. He got a wicket off the very first ball he bowled in this match and he couldn't have asked for a better one than that of Joe Root. The ball pitched on good length on off stump and nipped away just enough to kiss the outside edge of Root’s bat. And KL Rahul, waiting in the slips with his safe hands, took a very good low catch to his left to send the English skipper back to the pavilion.
His next victim was Jonny Bairstow and that was probably the best delivery he has bowled not only in this series but in his career thus far. He pitched it full on middle and off inviting Bairstow for the drive but it swung out beautifully to take the edge of the bat and land safely into the hands of Rahul once again. The beauty of that dismissal is unexplainable.
Next up, he got Chris Woakes caught behind with a surprise short ball, got Adil Rashid to edge another one and finally got Stuart Broad plumb in front of the stumps to claim his maiden Test fifer.
The conditions were helpful and he reaped the rewards for showing courage to bowl on the fuller side. Yes, he leaked 28 runs in his six overs but most of them came from edges and false shots. After his little spell of 2/26 in South Africa, this was probably the best he has bowled in his career thus far. And it was a result of bowling with good pace and on the fuller side which is different from his usual ‘hit the deck hard’ kind of bowling.
We have seen Pandya being used in the right way in the last two Tests. The way he was handled in the first Test was quite shoddy. He bowled only 10 overs in the first innings at Edgbaston without any success and wasn't bowled in the second innings at all. Moreover, he was even demoted to No. 8 in the second innings which didn't do his confidence that good.
But since then, India have used him like a genuine all-rounder. He has been sent to bat at No. 6 in three consecutive innings and has been used like a regular bowler too. India have backed him and that confidence shown in him has helped Pandya out a lot. The more exposure he gets, both as a batsman and as a bowler, the better he will become. Remember he was fast-paced into the Test squad with an experience of only 17 first class games. You can't obviously expect him to become Kapil Dev overnight. He has to be given time.
He has already showed promise on a lot of occasions with the bat. Be it his maiden century vs Sri Lanka in debut series, his gritty 93 against South Africa at Durban or his 80 odd runs against Afghanistan, he has proven that he has got the skills to grind it out in Test cricket. Now that he has started performing with the ball as well, that confidence will help him in converting the starts he has git in the series to big ones as well.