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Hardik Pandya is the epitome of an all-around player—calm, unflappable, and unconcerned

Ishant Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, and Wriddhiman Saha were omitted from the Test squad in February of this year in favour of Rohit Sharma, who will also lead India in both limited-overs formats. Chetan Sharma, the selectors’ chairman, fielded questions from the media following the announcement, which was unusual.

A significant portion of it focused on the significant changes and the new appointment, but one question was actually an incendiary remark rather than a question at all. The reporter basically argued that no one, not even the selectors, knows what Hardik Pandya is up to, that he doesn’t play domestic cricket, that he will be amazingly healthy for the IPL, that he will score runs, and that as a result, he will participate in the World Cup.

Pandya wasn’t given a roadmap in Chetan’s response; instead, he advised the reporter to phone Pandya and find out for himself why he wasn’t available for domestic cricket. It may imply that Pandya was also cut off from the selectors. Chetan did go on to encourage the reporter not to disparage what Pandya had accomplished for India, though.
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The overall meaning, which was not limited to the reporter, was very clear: Pandya is a brat, he only thinks about the IPL, and he is beyond conventional selection conventions. The selector cautioned the writer not to assume that runs will be enough to bring Pandya back into the team despite the fact that he played the previous T20 World Cup only as a hitter.

In the IPL this year, Pandya went on to bowl 30 over while also scoring 487 runs. Pandya’s pick was not questioned further, if at all. When physically fit and emotionally self-assured, Pandya is a T20 cricketer unlike any other. There are other seam-bowling allrounders, of course—Australia had three of them in this World Cup, along with Jason Holder, Jimmy Neesham, and Ben Stokes—but none of them can play as either a batsman or a bowler by themselves.

Pandya, though, is the all-arounder who comes closest to meeting the benchmark since he can play either as a bowler or a hitter.

If you disagree with that assertion, ESPNcricinfo’s Shiva Jayaraman provides numerical evidence. Pandya has played in 27.5 balls per game on average in games between Full Members during the last year. Pandya is seventh in terms of involvement, but all of the other players in the top ten, with the exception of Mohammad Rizwan and Holder, are spin-bowling all-rounders who cannot just play as a batsman or a bowler. Again, Holder is more of a bowler who receives more opportunities to bat than he should in the West Indies team.

Pandya contests almost 37 balls every game in the IPL. He has played in an average of 30.8 balls per game at this World Cup.

Recall India’s World Cup match from the tournament’s first round. The trends of both India and Pakistan’s innings were identical. Both teams sought left-arm spin in the 12th over after stumbling out of the gate and took advantage of the short straight boundaries. India went to Pandya in response to Axar Patel’s onslaught by Pakistan. Mohammad Nawaz was targeted by India, forcing Pakistan to save his final over at the very finish.

Later on in the competition, Pakistan was forced to close this deficit by adding Mohammad Wasim, a reliable bowler whose overall T20 batting average and strike rate are 18.44 and 122.05, respectively. He averages less than a run per ball in T20Is.

The biggest structural difference between India presently and India at the past World Cup may be Pandya’s bowling fitness. The spinners’ function has been reduced in these circumstances, necessitating the need for an allrounder who is more than just a stand-in.

In addition to contesting as many balls as he did, Pandya did so competently. When he is at the wicket, you cannot consider bowling at him or sneaking in an easy over. He has taken eight wickets, bowled in challenging periods, notably overs 13 and 15 of Bangladesh’s 16-over innings when they threatened to upset the match because of his fast pace and challenging bouncers.

If the selectors do give Pandya a break, it is obvious why. No other T20 cricketer performs what he does. Additionally, he does something else that is incredibly unsettling for an opponent: he does not fear defeat. He may have developed into the T20 cricket player he has because of this.

Even if he is, he may put on a convincing appearance of disinterest in the outcome. He was expressing to the dugout during the Pakistan match that he didn’t mind if India lost; they played a good game, they lost – it happens.

An opponent’s worst fear is a player who has nothing to lose. It implies that the player is free from any self-doubt and may play to the best of their abilities. Pandya has experienced self-doubts, but they were brought on by injuries and his lack of confidence in his physique after a recovery. Pandya was one of the three players to show up for optional training two days prior to India’s semi-final T20 World Cup match against England in Adelaide.
A ball was not used at all throughout the bowling practise. He just practised his run-up, his side-jump, and the end of his follow-through. This is not a man who has previously let himself down at important moments; rather, he is at one with his body.

Pandya seems to be more at ease on this tour. His lack of concern for the outcome of games, the way he prepares, and the way he interacts with individuals outside the squad bubble will all be put to the test further during the World Cup’s finals week amid the commotion surrounding knockout games. All of the preparation, philosophical shifts, and tactical adjustments culminate in these two games.

Nobody is interested in what you accomplished over the entire year if you lose. It is therefore appropriate to recognise the balance Pandya gives India, something that almost no other T20 cricket player does.

What do you think?

ZZED Reporter

Written by ZZED Reporter

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