Hardik Pandya’s timely resurgence provides boost to India’s World Cup campaign

Hardik Pandya has been an ideal foil for Bumrah

In IPL 2024, whenever MS Dhoni made it to the middle in the last over of an innings, there was deafening noise. So, it wasn’t exactly an eye-opener when Dhoni walked out to loud cheers to face the last four deliveries of Chennai Super Kings’ innings versus Mumbai Indians. The noise built to a crescendo when Dhoni thumped Hardik Pandya for three sixes in a row.

That day, thousands of adjectives were penned on Dhoni’s hitting prowess. Amid all the praises being showered on Dhoni, something else was noticeable: Hardik bowling enough ‘floaty stuff’. Basically, he seemed to be lacking self belief and was just putting the ball out there. For a few minutes, one wondered whether all those injuries had taken its toll on Hardik Pandya.  Incidentally, he had bowled a single over in the preceding RCB-MI match. A couple of matches prior to that game, Hardik, the MI skipper, didn’t use himself. 

Around that time, there were also feelers from the Indian camp that Hardik ‘needs to bowl more overs’ ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup. Whatever the reason for his improved performance, a couple of weeks after that chastening experience at the hands of Dhoni, Hardik was clearly bending his back and pounding the pitch harder in the LSG-MI game. He was duly rewarded with noteworthy figures of 2 for 26 from four overs. He also bagged 11 scalps in that IPL. At one point of time, it didn’t seem as if he would take even half of those wickets.

Hardik has carried that form into the ongoing World Cup, having taken seven wickets at an astounding average of just over 9. It is true that India have played all those matches so far in treacherous conditions in New York, where bowlers who hit the deck hard on a slightly shorter length have found success. Hardik, however, deserves his fair share of the credit for executing the plan to perfection, and that too at crucial junctures of the match.

Just to elaborate the hypothesis, consider his short spells versus Pakistan. In the 13th over of Pakistan’s innings, Fakhar Zaman charged down the track to Hardik, but the all-rounder had watched the feet of the batter and shortened his length. As he had put every ounce of his energy into the offering, he extracted some awkward bounce and the southpaw could only spoon a catch to the wicketkeeper via the splice of his bat. 

After sending the dangerous Fakhar back to the pavilion, he employed a bouncer to also prise out Shadab Khan. Jasprit Bumrah rightly got all the plaudits for his superlative performance but lest we forget, Hardik turned out to be an ideal foil for his pace colleague. Even in India’s next match against the United States of America, he put on a tidy performance by taking 2 for 14. 

In the last six months, Hardik has come under heavy scrutiny in relation to things that are beyond his control. Some of the abuses thrown at him were sickening. The best way to silence such vitriol  is with your on-field performance, and Hardik has done just that with the white ball in hand. Hopefully, through the course of the World Cup, his willow, too, will sparkle.