In India’s disappointing campaign at the Men’s T20 World Cup last year in the UAE, Hardik Pandya wasn’t at the peak of his all-round powers. His batting wasn’t giving the desired results, his bowling fitness was shrouded in mystery and, as a result, India missed the cutting edge needed from a pace all-rounder.
But now, with the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia now 100 days away, Pandya is showing signs that he may be back to his peak powers as an all-rounder.
In the T20I series opener against England at sunny Southampton, Pandya produced a brilliant all-round performance to give India a crushing 50-run win and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
With the bat, coming at number five, Pandya slammed his maiden T20I fifty, 51 off 33 balls, laced with six fours and a six as India reached 198/8. With his right-arm pace, Pandya took 4/33 in his allotted four overs, troubling the batters with hard lengths, used seam-up deliveries in between to rattle England’s explosive batting order.
“I will give equal importance to both (batting and bowling performances) because that fifty was important. We had lost wickets, but at the same time the momentum was maintained and reached to at least a respectable total.
“The bowling efforts will take a little bit more credit as that spell brought us back in the game in a very good way and made things difficult for England time by time as they didn’t get freedom (for the big hits) despite the wicket being good. So, will give appreciation and importance to both of them (batting and bowling exploits),” said Pandya in post-match press conference.
Southampton is also the place where Pandya last played a Test for India in 2018 before white-ball cricket, back surgery and injuries hampered his all-round powers. With 2022 and 2023 being World Cup years, Pandya stated that his focus is on white-ball cricket while keeping a small window open for featuring in Test cricket.
“It is depending on what we are playing. Right now, this is a white-ball season in a way, as big World Cups (in 20 and 50 overs) are coming up, and so the focus is more on white ball. Right now, the more white ball (matches) I can play for India, the better it is. When the opportunity comes for Tests, of course.
“But importantly, what to play and what not to play only time will tell. For now, whatever games I can play, wherever I can give 100 per cent. If I am not able to give 100 per cent, I will go out (of the side) again. It’s simple: If I can play as a 100 per cent cricketer, only then will I play. I not, I will not take someone’s place.”
Pandya, who made his international comeback in T20Is against South Africa at home in June after leading Gujarat Titans to IPL 2022 title, believes that working hard with a smile is the reason behind his glittering run of form.
“Somewhere in between, the hard work bears fruit. I have always believed that if your work hard with a clear heart and keep intentions clean in life; my point has always been to how can I prepare myself the best. Result may or may not come in my hand though all the things I am doing are giving me results.