Hardik Pandya is ready to do everything for India again

Time and again, the all-rounder has shown his worth, even when he wasn’t part of the team.
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Hardik has proved himself irreplaceable in four games this Asia Cup by accomplishing different roles with barely any hindrance.

Does anyone still need to shed light on how important Hardik Pandya is for India’s chances in the World Cup next month? Time and again, the all-rounder has shown his worth, even when he wasn’t part of the team. Yes, the Indian side had Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar and even Venkatesh Iyer in the fray, but if only they were half as good as Hardik Pandya.

Hardik has done everything, as always, to help the Men in Blue attain the much-required balance. He would arrest the collapse to bail his team out of troubled waters and do the power-hitting in the slog with the willow. He would also swing in the powerplay and crank it up in the middle to trouble the batters with the ball. Hardik is a man of all seasons.

Hardik has proved himself irreplaceable in four games this Asia Cup by accomplishing different roles with barely any hindrance. The scary part for the opposition is that this isn’t even surprising. Since Hardik has busted at the competitive level, he was the ideal candidate for this job in the Indian team.

The injuries and surgeries did try to interrupt, but even they couldn’t stop Hardik from taking the role in the blue jersey. When Hardik returned after surgery, there were doubts about whether he would ever be a durable all-rounder in the 50-over format - someone who could bowl 6-7 or even ten on days and stay longer at the crease. While the growth was slow, Hardik eventually returned to his best just before the mega event. Now, he is just getting better and helping his teammates to form a formidable Indian team.

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In the first match of the Asia Cup, Hardik arrived in a precarious situation when India were reeling at 66/4 amidst a fast-bowling masterclass by the famed Pakistani trio. He rescued the team with Ishan Kishan in extreme batting conditions to take India on 266. While the rain ruined the second half, Hardik Pandya’s batting must have assured India severely.

In the second game, Hardik Pandya dried up runs from his end after Nepal were off to a flier, eyeing a respected score. He bent his precious back after the powerplay to bowl speedy hard lengths and extracted movement off the surface. He bowled three maiden overs and conceded only 4.20 runs per over.

Hardik played an identical role in a rematch against Pakistan in another rain-affected clash in Colombo. His lengths were immaculate straightaway, and even the opponent’s best batter, Babar Azam, couldn’t tackle him. His wicket on only the fourth delivery of Hardik’s spell unsettled Pakistan's batting lineup and never recovered.

You know when Hardik Pandya is in flow with the ball. He would bowl with a settled pace and extract something off the pitch almost every time. His lines and lengths? Precise.

He was in the flow against Pakistan, as he always is against them. Had the luck favoured him, Hardik would have easily added at least one more to his tally. But he won’t complain; neither will the team.

And when Hardik had to turn up again the next day without a break in humid conditions, he didn’t complain again. While he had a rare failure in a crunch situation with the bat, Hardik covered for it with his bowling. The figures reading 5-0-14-1 might be deceptive for those who didn’t see him bowl live. For those who followed, it was another calming performance from Mr. Dependable.

Hardik Pandya kept things simple on a pitch where the spinners had better assistance. When a partnership was brewing between Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage, he decided to test their outside edges. Hardik moved the ball away from both batters, and the occasional ones also held its line, and while the batters didn’t edge, they were close to losing their patience.

However, his bowling did help Ravindra Jadeja on the other end, who scalped Dhananjaya, who tried to break shackles after getting nothing from Hardik’s side. Eventually, Sri Lanka lost by 41 runs, and India sealed its berth in the final. The importance of a bowling partnership has been visible in Hardik’s efforts in this tournament, whose dry spells have enabled the other bowlers to scalp wickets.

“He (Hardik) has worked really hard in his bowling for the last couple of years. It doesn't happen overnight, and it's pleasing to see. He looked like taking a wicket off every ball,” stated Rohit Sharma after the game.

Hardik Pandya’s performances amaze when looked at from this angle. He can do everything on the field according to the situation at his peak. Be it his batting performance against England in the semifinal last year or his bowling performance against Sri Lanka last night, Hardik has only reinforced this fact.

The most arduous work for a player is to bat in the lower middle order and bowl in the mid-phase of the innings in the 50-over cricket. Most all-rounders, understandably, do the easier jobs in both departments for their sides. They never get treated as the go-to option when the team is under the pump.

In Hardik’s case, it’s the opposite. He bats in pressure situations when the team is down and bowls when nothing is happening or when wickets are required. Despite this, Hardik barely fails and stands out in every aspect.

The difference in quality has never been wider than now. Hardik could always walk into the team solely as a batter. Now, he can also be part of the side as a specialist bowler.

The World Cup is looming now. The final preparations are underway. And Hardik Pandya is ready to do everything for India again.

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