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South Africa Test: On a day the top order crumbled, Hardik Pandya showed true class

The 24-year-old from Baroda has the potential to become a good Test all-rounder, but it is too early to compare him with Kapil Dev.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   07-01-2018
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Hardik Pandya has put on a rockstar performance with his inimitable aggressive style to show that even the fearsome South African pace attack could not rattle him. The 24-year-old from Baroda belongs to the IPL generation of players, for whom the word fear does not exist. It’s easy in the whiz-thud-slam-bang format to go after the bowlers with setting the field so tough.

On Saturday, at cricket’s intimidating arena in Cape Town, Pandya once again demonstrated that the best way to handle hot pace is bat like a king. The world of cricket has seen many dashing batsmen before. And this young man showed that whatever be the format of cricket, if you can play with confidence and thrash speed merchants like Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel, the Indian top order could also have shown some character.

Despite all the talk of right preparation for a tough Test series in South Africa, the Indians did nothing right. Photo: APDespite all the talk of right preparation for a tough Test series in South Africa, the Indians did nothing right. Photo: AP

Those who have followed the career of Pandya feel he is best suited for the short formats. Yet, in a short span of six months in Test cricket, Pandya has grabbed the opportunity like a seasoned pro. Scoring 93 off 95 deliveries, punctuated with 14 boundaries and a six, Pandya deserved his second Test ton. That he fell short of the magic figure should not be mourned, as he has saved Virat Kohli’s side huge embarrassment.

The hype over this series is justified. India are kings at home, in Tests, ODIs and T20 internationals. The true test of character and courage is competing against tougher sides where the pitch offers a lot for the tear-away fast bowlers.

There is no doubting the pedigree of this South African pace attack. It has speed, venom, the ‘killer’ instinct, and above all, the right physical frame, to unleash the red cricket ball at awkward trajectories and bounce. Pandya faced it all with relish as he is the type of batsman who does not let the bowlers get on top.

On Friday, when the Indian fast bowlers did a good job, it was a task only half done. Even though Bhuvneshwar Kumar did well in grabbing four wickets and R Ashwin chipped in with two wickets, it was surprising to see Jasprit Bumrah picked ahead of Umesh Yadav and seasoned Ishant Sharma.

Umesh and Ishant are definitely better bowlers on paper and have the pedigree. Maybe, this one wrong choice of bowler was bad for India, as Bumrah conceded 73 runs in 19 overs. Considering that the Indian bowlers were taking wickets regularly, they would have done well to restrict the hosts to a score of around 200.

There has been talk of skipper Kohli making a wrong decision in picking Rohit Sharma ahead of Ajinkya Rahane. Given Rahane’s poor string of scores in recent months, there would have been no point in making him face the hostile South African pace battery.

To be sure, despite all the talk of right preparation for a tough Test series in South Africa, the Indians did nothing right.

The players were not primed for playing Tests after a long gap, and it showed in the way a batsman like Murali Vijay played. Cheteshwar Pujara showed rock solid defence on Saturday morning in true Test style, but it was Pandya who stole the show.

As India’s iconic cricket captain Kapil Dev turned 59 on Saturday, fans started making comparisons between Kapil and Pandya. India has been craving for a Test allrounder for a long time. Yet, to bracket Pandya in the same league as Kapil so early in his career would be premature.

Kapil was a gifted and instinctive cricketer. He had a large heart and instilled in his teammates tremendous self-belief. For him, captaincy was something natural and not a burden, as he showed us in the 1983 World Cup.

Pandya bats with aggression and sweet timing. As a bowler, he is not medium-fast but fast-medium and comes in very handy in any format. Definitely, he has the potential to become a good Test all-rounder, but there is no need to put pressure on him by comparing him with Kapil Dev.

This generation of Indian cricketers under Virat Kohli has a captain who instils positivity and sets an example with his own performance. Yes, Kohli has failed in the first innings but it would be unfair to blame it on his wedding and honeymoon.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: On one year of Dhoni quitting as captain, my tryst with 'MSDestiny'

Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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