ICC T20 World Cup: Decoding the importance of Hardik Pandya
Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya is in the form of his life. By the looks of it, the 28-year-old is the best all-rounder in limited-overs cricket at the international level. Team India will be hopeful of a Hardik masterclass at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup later this year. He is dear to India's scheme of things. We decode his importance for the T20 WC.
Fitness issues had ruled Hardik out of contention since last year's T20 World Cup. However, the all-rounder bounced back and how. He excelled across fronts in the Indian Premier League 2022 season. He led the Gujarat Titans to a title in their maiden run of the tourney. Hardik racked up 487 runs at 44.27. The right-armer clipped eight wickets with best figures of 3/17.
A lot was expected from Hardik in the five-match T20Is against South Africa, given his over-the-top performances in IPL. The hard-hitter dazzled with inning-wise scores reading 31*(12), 9(12), 31*(21), and 46(31). Post that, he struck a 12-ball 24 in Ireland and a career-best 51* in England. Overall, Hardik has aggregated 253 T20I runs since his return, averaging 31.63. He has also captured eight wickets.
Hardik became the first-ever Indian with the double of 50 wickets and 500 runs in T20 Internationals. He achieved the feat after dismissing West Indies opener Brandon King in the third T20I. The 28-year-old is the 11th man and 30th overall to attain this distinction. Deepti Sharma (women's cricket team) is the only other Indian to script this record in the format.
"I used to bowl as a filler before in between if someone was not bowling, now I can probably say that I can bowl four overs as a third or fourth seamer where I can contribute equally as I do with my bat," Hardik said post India's seven-wicket win in the third T20I. He added that his bowling adds balance to the side.
A few days back, former India coach Ravi Shastri highlighted Hardik's importance. "I have always wanted a guy who could bowl in top-6. And with Hardik[Pandya] getting injured, it became a massive problem. And it cost India. It cost India a couple of World Cups because we didn't have anyone who could bowl in the top six. So, that was a liability," he said.
Hardik has played 15 internationals for India in 2022. He has slammed 353 runs in these matches at a remarkable average of 35.30. The Indian all-rounder also owns 14 wickets at 21.00 (average difference of 14.30). Hardik has six of these wickets in ODI cricket. Interestingly, he has a four-wicket haul each in both white-ball formats this year.
Hardik made his T20I debut in January 2016 against Australia at the Adelaide Oval. He has become India's premier all-rounder in white-ball cricket ever since. He owns 806 runs in 66 matches, averaging 23.02. He has struck at a laud-worthy rate of 143.16. On the bowling front, Hardik has captured 50 wickets at 27.42. His best figures in the format read 4/33.
Hardik would look to rekindle his love affair with Australia. In T20Is, he has slammed 78 runs in three innings, averaging 39.00. His scores read 16(15), 42*(22), and 20(13). He has also snapped up three wickets at 26.00. Overall, Hardik has bossed the show in the Aussie nation in internationals. He holds 288 runs at 72.00 and four wickets while averaging 25.50.