Hardik Pandya enjoyed a stellar IPL season with newbies Gujarat Titans. Returning to competitive cricket after a long injury lay-off, the flamboyant Baroda all-rounder guided an unfancied Gujarat Titans to a memorable title triumph in only their maiden IPL outing. (Also Read | ‘Can’t keep him waiting for long, hope he’s in plane to Australia for T20 World Cup’: India greats on Umran Malik)
The 28-year-old’s leadership skills were lauded by former and current players, including former India captain Sunil Gavaskar and GT team mentor Gary Kirsten. He ended the 10-team competition with 487 runs and eight wickets under his belt.
A hard-hitting middle-order batsman and a pacer, Pandya has so far played 11 Tests, 63 One-day internationals and 54 Twenty20 matches in India colours. He has also been given the first taste of leadership in the Ireland assignment. While his goal remains winning the World Cup for India, Pandya said he had “always enjoyed responsibility” and it gets the best out of him. But can his current form help him knock on the door of the Test contingent as well?
Former India batter Wasim Jaffer feels Pandya still needs to put in a lot of work before becoming a Test regular. “Hardik bowling 15 to 18 overs a day, you don’t see that happening [due to] the kind of back-surgery he had. Will he bat at four or five? I don’t see that happening in red-ball cricket,” Jaffer told ESPNcricinfo’s show ‘Runorder’.
“So in that sense, he’s far away from getting into the red-ball circuit. So I think if we just leave him bowling four overs or at max 10 overs in One-Dayers and batting at four, five, or six, it will help him prolong his career,” he added.
While Pandya has returned to the national fold, Rishabh Pant currently faces a stiff challenge, especially after a mediocre batting run in the South Africa Twenty20s. Former South Africa pacer Dale Steyn explained how the Indian team can use someone like Paddy Upton when it comes to developing a leader.
Upton worked as a team catalyst for Rajasthan Royals in the recent IPL season. He had also served as their head coach from 2013 to 2015 and then in 2019.
“Some teams don’t have them but a lot of teams will have someone like a Paddy Upton who will work with players and be able to go to the management and say, “I think this player relishes being a captain,” said Steyn.
“You look at Hardik, and it feels like the moment he’s given a little bit of responsibility of captaincy, you see the best out of him. You know, all of a sudden this guy is just a completely different player… The ‘catalysts’, this is where they make their money!”