In December 2015, a yet-to-debut in the international cricket Hardik Pandya version was interviewed about his playing style, to which he said, “The plus point what I have is that my bowling and batting (skills) are equal. Obviously, batting will be a more stronger point but I am quite a good enough bowler as well. I bowl quick too. I can be a proper fast bowler.”
Cricket news: Pandya played a vital role in the series decider against England
That interview might be an exuberance of his youth and immaturity, but three years down the line, India can never think of going into the next year’s World Cup without him.
But since his debut in Australia one thing has become evident that bowler Hardik can be mysterious at times. He has surprise pace, variations, gumption to stare into the eyes of the opponent, but what he does not carry is the famous fast bowler’s ego.
After a short while in the series decider, it became clear that Kohli had failed to read the conditions appropriately and inclusion of an extra pacer was a huge mistake, and was proved during Hardik’s first over and innings’ sixth.
Jason Roy and Jos Buttler had scored at least a single boundary in the previous five overs and in the last over of the powerplay, they decided to step up their game.
Hardik was welcomed with two consecutive boundaries and then two consecutive sixes. Hardik hoped for a mishit and bowled shorter deliveries, but was punished enough as the over bore 22 runs.
Pandya later said in post-match interview, “See this T20 format, it’s a funny game. You need to back yourself and come and bowl your best balls. I still remember after getting hit for 22, I was still normal. My elder brother Krunal asked me… ‘It’s okay, you’re going to do it’ and I told him ‘yeah the game is like that.”
India soon learnt that the scoring rate would drop if they pick up wickets, but it did not happen until Hardik returned for his second spell.
This time Kohli needs a pat because of his timing to reintroduce Hardik in the 12th over to face new batters, while in between Siddarth Kaul and Deepak Chahar got Buttler and Roy in 8th and 10th over respectively.
This is where the fast bowler ego vanished and Hardik caused damage. He later said, “My focus was just to make sure I bowled different balls rather than just bowling yorkers because length… I mean the shortest boundary was straight and if I miss my length, it will go [for a six].
“In shorter formats, when I bowl I think as a batsman. Generally when I bowl, apparently batsmen are going hard in this format. So I try to think as a batsman and I try to outplay them.”
Hardik mixed his good length and short of good length deliveries and Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales could manage only two runs in that over. In between Yuzvendra Chahal managed enough pressure to lead England to a point of desperation.
In the next over Hardik started with fuller and wide outside of off-stump balls and Morgan perished attempting a cross-batted shot. Hales put one ball in the square leg stands but nicked a short-of-good-length ball to Dhoni.
Even after that, England seemed to go way past 200. But Hardik came back again and won the one-on-one tussle with Ben Stokes, who hit a short-of-good length delivery of Pandya straight down the throat of Kohli.
Jonny Bairstow read one bluff of Hardik, as he waited down the crease and hit it over cover. But his decision to stay deep costed his wicket, as he nicked a fuller and wider ball from Hardik to Dhoni.
Kaul and Yadav increased pressure from their part and led to the end of England’s innings to a sub-par total of 198.
Hardik described the game as, “Some days it works, some days it doesn’t.” Kohli and Co. would hope that these days come often and the all-rounder become consistent with his performance.