In November 2021, a chronic injury reduced India all-rounder Hardik Pandya primarily to a batter who could bowl a bit. Many feared whether he would be able to revive his international career.
Cut to October 2023, and the all-rounder could emerge as the key to India’s World Cup campaign. Having undergone a rigorous rehab and training programme, he changed his approach and lifestyle.
Hardik 2.0 has resurfaced as a composed and reliable all-rounder.
No wonder then that captain Rohit Sharma is heavily dependent on his deputy to continue his dream run for the next two and a half months, starting with India’s first Asia Cup Super Four outing against arch-rival Pakistan here on Sunday.
“You saw the quality in the last game against Pakistan. Ishan (Kishan) and Hardik put their hands up and scored well. Obviously, with bowling too, he is great. He has bowled well in the last year and a half for us. His form will be crucial to us. He is a guy who does both things, and that’s important,” Rohit said after BCCI announced India’s ICC ODI World Cup 2023 squad in Pallekele on Tuesday.
“The way he batted in the last game showed that he has a [very] mature head on his shoulders. These are good qualities of good batters. In the last year or so, he has come up with the bat, and his bowling has been good, too. That’s important for us.”
Since the 2019 World Cup, Hardik’s ODI progress has to be judged in two halves. With severe back injury troubling him often, he was far from being a genuine all-rounder for the next two years.
While his batting didn’t suffer much (refer to factbox), he bowled only five of the nine ODIs he played in that phase.
Post-2021, however, Hardik has been a revelation. While Hardik, the batter, has adopted the accumulator’s role, playing perfectly to the situation more often than not, his bowling contribution has stood out.
In the 16 matches he has played in the last 18 months, he has bowled in every innings, barring one. The fact that he is back to his bowling best - despite not clocking consistently in the 140+ kph range - is underlined in a remarkable improvement in his economy rate and average.
Add to that his elevation to Rohit’s deputy - and having captained India thrice in the captain’s absence, Hardik will definitely be one of the most - if not the most - vital cogs in India’s Mission 2023.
Since 2019 World Cup till 2021 T20 World Cu
Since 2021 T20 World Cup till date
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