World Cup 2019: World Cup gives Hardik Pandya chance to make lasting impression
- Relentless training and focus on cricket has helped Pandya take his game to the next level.
- Pandya has started to focus harder on the game, and has come up trumps so far.
- Last year in England, experts were questioning his place in the Indian team before he produced a match winning spell to win India the third Test.
LONDON: Even as India collapsed against New Zealand in swing-friendly conditions at The Oval here on Saturday, Hardik Pandya didn’t do too badly. During his 37-ball 30, the allrounder showed that he has the ability to counter-attack, a feature that was first visible when he smashed a brave 93 on a tough wicket against South Africa in the first Test of that series in January 2018.
Clearly, the man is in great touch, but it’s not easy to switch from flat tracks on offer in the IPL, to a pitch and an atmosphere where you don’t know what the ball could do next.
It shows how badly he wants to excel in his maiden 50-over World Cup. He knows it’s the ultimate cricketing prize-something which if he wins for India, will help him and his fans forget the infamous interview with Karan Johar on the ‘Koffee with Karan’ show.
The million-dollar question is, will his blazing form in the IPL (402 runs in 16 matches @44.66, strike rate of 191.42), which helped Mumbai Indians to their fourth IPL title, help India surge in the World Cup? “Even though the formats are different, it will benefit him. As much as I know him, he’ll bat in a mature manner – there will be times when he will just look to hit the ball, and there will be times when he will stay at the wicket.
“The key point of his recent success is the maturity in his batting, which comes with age. People are now scared of what he can do. Teams will be planning for his wicket and will gun for him,” says former India wicketkeeper Kiran More, who has seen Pandya since the time he joined his academy as a kid, to the present day. More is the wicketkeeping coach with MI. A former chief selector, More backs Hardik to do well in the World Cup because he’s proved himself as a decent batsman in Test cricket.
“Hardik and Dhoni will be very crucial in the death overs for India, especially as we’d be required to put up big totals. Pandya has got a hundred in Tests too. He’s done well in all formats. I’ve always believed that if a player does well in Tests, he can do so in ODIs. He’s now a key player for India in all the three formats,” he feels.
“The rhythm that he found in the IPL will help India in the World Cup. The swing-friendly conditions in England will help his style of bowling,” feels Pandya’s childhood coach Jitendra Singh.
You do wonder how Pandya bounced back from the depths he had plunged at the beginning of the year, when he was sent back from the tour of Australia along with teammate KL Rahul for his disparaging remarks about women.
“As a coach, I wanted to infuse him with positivity at that time. We worked out that we’d accept whatever punishment would be meted out to him. However, we wanted to use this time to better his game. With that aim in mind, we began his training at the Reliance ground in Baroda.
“Deep down, he was sad, which was understandable. I had to pull him out of what had happened and turn him into a better player and a human being, and he left no stone unturned in doing that too,” recalls Singh.
That relentless training and focus on cricket, he says, has helped Pandya take his game to the next level. “The way he’s batting now is the result of the way he has utilized that time,” Singh sums up.
Pointing out an intrinsic quality in his ward, Singh says: “The boy is clean-hearted. We all make mistakes, but it’s important to accept your mistake and move on. He has that ability.”
Most players would have wilted under the weight of such a huge controversy, but Pandya, you could argue, used it to focus harder on the game, and has come up trumps so far. “The way he’s bounced back from this controversy shows his character. He’s a player for the big occasion. I mean, he overshadowed Andre Russell during that 34-ball 91 that he smashed against the Kolkata Knight Riders. Amongst the Indian batsmen, he was looking the best in the IPL,” praises More.
Singh repeats by now the well-known story that Pandya was a leg spinner till “as an 18-year-old tall lad, he picked up five wickets while bowling fast for the first time.”
Last year in England, experts were questioning his place in the Indian Test team before he produced a match winning spell of five for 28 to win India the third Test against the hosts at Trent Bridge, Birmingham.
The ‘Helicopter shot’ that he has added to his armoury isn’t easy to learn and execute, but Pandya manages to pull it off with ease now after trying to master it for hours in the nets before IPL-12.