Hardik Pandya: An asset in whites

The uniform changes. The ball changes. The format changes but the challenge remains the same. When India host Afghanistan on the 14th of this month at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Hardik Pandya will have a huge task up his sleeve. The all-rounder will be an asset to team India when they visit England a few weeks later. So to cement his spot in the playing XI with a clinical performance with both bat and ball against Afghanistan will be of great importance.

Hardik has had a good IPL with the ball, picking 18 wickets and finishing as Mumbai Indians’ leading wicket-taker. Time and again, he has proven to be a wicket-taking option for his skipper and when India move to England, his seam-ups will yield breakthroughs on green turfs.

But before all of this, he’ll face a stiff challenge against Afghanistan.

Hardik Pandya the bowler

On his ODI debut at Dharamsala in 2016 against New Zealand, Hardik Pandya analysed conditions pretty early, understood the swing on offer and followed a strict line, that like a Test match, to trouble the Kiwi batsmen. He stuck to his length, nipped the ball around and put his new ball exploits to display.

Now at the Chinnaswamy, the way India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane utilises him will be the key. The think-tank will be tempted to play three spinners and if this happens, the team will have to sacrifice on one fast-bowler and Hardik could actually see himself shouldering the pace bowling unit along with a specialist.

On Indian wickets, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav have decimated visiting teams. But considering Afghanistan’s spin wagon, the chances of a rank-turner at the Chinnaswamy won’t be sky-high. So Hardik’s role with the ball becomes all the more crucial. The Afghanistan batsmen will have enough time to gauge the pace of the wicket and going by the way the pitch has behaved in the recently concluded IPL, bowlers who can change their pace will be the key.

Hardik has developed his knuckle ball which comes at the batsman with no change in arm-speed. So it’ll be an opportunity for him to test it against Afghanistan in the longer format ahead of the England tour and learn more about its effectiveness.

Hardik Pandya the batsman

No matter what format, it’s a treat to watch a Hardik Pandya onslaught. Batting in the lower order, Hardik Pandya can quickly take a game away from any opposition. Against the likes of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Zahir Khan and Rahmat Shah the task will be difficult. And Hardik likes challenges. Moreover, he fancies the spinners.

Over time, Hardik Pandya has sussed out wrist-spinners. Rashid doesn’t toss the ball in the shorter format. What he does in red-ball cricket will dictate the pace of the game. Hardik can afford to settle in, weather his spin, wait for his opportunity to go big and dent Rashid’s confidence.

The key for Hardik will be to stick around. If he buys himself enough time, we all know what he is capable of. From a memorable Test ton in Pallekele to a gutsy-93 in Cape Town, Hardik Pandya’s stay is purposeful in conditions difficult for batting. When the opportunity to score runs becomes burdensome, his quick-runs add tremendous value to the total.

Before India switches formats again, Hardik will be eyeing to get some runs under his kitty and take this confidence to England. We wish Hardik and team India all the luck for their next assignment against Afghanistan.