Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been grabbing eyeballs of the cricketing fraternity lately owing to his consistent all-round show. Seeing Pandya’s stellar performances in the past 18 months, a lot of the folks in the cricketing fraternity have started labelling him as the next Kapil Dev.
Recently, the cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar has heaped praises on the mercurial all-rounder. The Master Blaster backed Pandya to play a crucial role in the seaming conditions of South Africa. Given the fact that Indian now boasts a powerful pace battery, Hardik’s addition to the team has balanced the side properly.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Sachin opened up on many things – from Hardik Pandya’s importance in the team to India’s chances of creating history on the tour of South Africa.
“Simply because he [Hardik Pandya] can do the job of the fourth seamer, bat like a good middle-order batsman and is a good fielder. For the first time India can afford to play with three genuine seamers. Never before could we think of three pacers and a fourth one to fall back on -- not even during Kapil Dev’s time could we enjoy this luxury. At best we would play with three quicks with Manoj Prabhakar being one of them. But this team is just so well balanced,” Tendulkar said while speaking to Hindustan Times on Tuesday (January 2).
“In my 24 years with the Indian Test team we never had the balance this team has. The man who brings in such versatility is Hardik Pandya. A guy who can bowl 17-18 overs and is perfectly capable of scoring runs at No 7 or 8 is an asset. This is going to be Pandya’s biggest series and Virat will be banking on him,” the batting maestro added.
Talking about the challenge for Team India on the seaming Proteas conditions, Sachin said: “Yes. It will be a good challenge to play in seaming conditions in South Africa and England. It’s about the Indian team and not about any individual. As a team India is very well prepared.”
“I don’t think our players are scared of either pace or bounce. They may have played a lot of cricket on Indian wickets but that doesn’t mean they are not equipped to play on quick surfaces. Our batsmen are mentally very strong,” explained the batting legend.
Historically Indian batsmen have struggled to tackle the extra bounce in South Africa. Aside from Tendulkar himself, no other Indian batsman has managed to score 2 Test tons on the South African soil. No wonder, the Men in Blue have won only 2 Tests out of the 17 which they played in the rainbow nation since their readmission to cricket back in 1992.
On being asked about Virat Kohli, whether the Indian captain will be under pressure as a captain and batsman, Sachin Tendulkar said: “Virat Kohli will succeed if the team succeeds. Virat should just play his normal game and stick to the basics. The team should rally around him. India can only succeed if they can put up good totals. Runs will matter and not only Virat, but the entire team has to contribute. So, it’s not only about Virat Kohli.”
Sachin finally concluded by talking about India’s chance to beat South Africa in their own turf.
“South Africa will miss a lot of experience. There are a lot of new faces who are largely untested. Old guns like Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis are coming off injuries or were indisposed. So there is a definite experience vacuum in the South Africa team and India must exploit that,” the batting great signed-off.