Hardik Pandya has captured the imagination of the cricket world since his performance in the IPL 2015 and then in World T20 2016. Later on, he cemented his legacy in the final of the ICC CT 2017, when he smashed 76 runs in 43 balls against Pakistan.
He also smacked a century in Tests against Sri Lanka and was marked out as the next Kapil Dev thanks to his performances in India and Sri Lanka with bat and ball. Pandya was supposed to play the Sri Lanka series as well but decided to skip the Test series altogether in order to give himself some rest for South Africa sojourn.
He played a very important inning of 93 runs in the first Test, but after that, his bat was silent for most of the time, as he got out in hilarious fashion. He followed up with scores of 1, 15, 6, 0 and 4 in the remaining 5 innings of the Tests. This didn’t help the Indian team as he was playing a very important role at no.7 in the batting lineup. He was shouldered with the responsibility of scoring crucial runs for the team lower down the order, but lack of technique to counter short balls and inability to handle the swing proved fatal for the ultra-aggressive Pandya.
The Proteas bowlers found out that Pandya cannot suppress his urge of going after the bowling and this led to his failures after that brilliant counterattacking inning of 93 in the first Test.
He was supposed to give support to the three fast bowlers chosen by the team management, as the fourth quick, however, Pandya’s penchant for bowling short balls at batsmen who are adept at playing hooks and pulls, only proved to be counterproductive to the Indian cause. Pandya picked up just 3 wickets in the whole series, with all three coming in the first Test itself. In the final Test, Pandya only bowled a total of 8 overs in both innings.
There were talks of preferring Rohit Sharma over Hardik Pandya, as Pandya’s failure with both ball and bat became evident. Experts wanted India to play with 6 specialist batsmen, instead of playing an all-rounder.
One more issue was highlighted by cricket experts in commentary and it was related to the attitude of Hardik Pandya. We all know that he loves to express himself on the field and it was seen in his various haircuts and highlights in the air.
The main point of concern was the way Pandya got run out in the 2nd Test, as he was casually trotting towards the crease and failed to ground either the bat or the foot in the crease, as the ball shattered the stumps. Replays found him short of crease despite reaching the crease, but not grounding the bat or foot caused him to get run out.
Experts like Sanjay Manjrekar even called Pandya arrogant and Sunil Gavaskar called his casualness unforgivable, as India was in good position and his wicket hurt India badly, as they were looking to put up a big score on the board.
In the first two ODIs, Pandya didn’t get much to do as the spinners demolished the South African batting in both the games and the top order batsmen did the chasing work easily.
Because of the inconsistent form of Hardik Pandya, especially with the ball; India are forced to play Kedar Jadhav as well. This is done in order to get the 10 overs out of the 5th bowler, since Pandya has been unable to complete his 10 overs regularly.
Even while batting, it has been unravelled that Pandya is unable to hit the fast bowlers with the regularity he murders spinners. This is proving to be a big problem for Pandya, who is supposed to take over from MS Dhoni as the next finisher in the Indian ODI and T20I team. If Pandya is unable to hit the quick bowlers out of the ground on regular basis and is unable to handle short pitch bowling, India might be forced to look at other options as well.
Hardik Pandya got a rude awakening and a lesson that if you become overconfident and complacent in the game, it has its ways to come back and bite you back. He needs to buckle up and take a measure of his own game and attitude towards the sport that has given him so much; before the game gives him an apt reply.