Hardik Pandya’s cricket is visceral in nature. His primal instincts take centre-stage.
He can be brutal with the bat, bowls with pace, doesn’t hold anything back on the field.
Negativity doesn’t cloud his thinking even during adversity; with him, it’s pure, unbridled aggression.
Hardik’s explosive and game-changing 83 against the Aussies here on Sunday was a lot about trusting his strengths.
If he gets under the ball, it invariably ends up in the stands. He also has the delicate touch; he arches his back, waits and dabs lifting deliveries over the slip cordon.
Hardik blends power with footwork. This tall wiry lad is strong off either foot, employs the pull against the pacemen.
Hardik is critical to India’s plans in the longer formats too. On Test campaigns away from the sub-continent, his presence enables the side to either play an additional bowler or strengthen the batting. He lends balance to the eleven.
Genuine all-rounders are a rare breed and anyone who demolishes attacks like Hardik does and bowls at over 140 kmph on a consistent basis brings a lot to the table.
This naturally athletic 23-year-old ‘impact’ player from Vadodara is bowling with more control without forsaking his speed.
Bowling coach Bharat Arun realises Hardik’s value.
Former India physio Nitin Patel, who has watched Hardik rather closely at Mumbai Indians, told The Hindu, “He is a very spontaneous person, does things his own way and doesn’t have the fear of failure.”
Nitin added, “Hardik is someone who likes to express himself. He is also hardworking.”
Before breaking into the Baroda team, Hardik played inter-village duels for a few hundred rupees. He has come up the hard way; those years of struggle have toughened him.
If iceman M.S. Dhoni held the Indian innings together and Hardik blew the Aussie bowlers away, the Indian wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal showcased their precious qualities. Former India leg-spinner V.V. Kumar said, “Kuldeep has a very deceptive action. But I think the Australian batsmen, including Steve Smith and David Warner, erred in playing Kuldeep off the pitch. They should watch his hand carefully to pick his variations.”
The left-arm wrist spinner was versatile according to Kumar.
“He gets side spin, bowls the chinaman and sends down a very-well concealed top-spinner.”
Crucially, there is fizz off the pitch for Kuldeep; he does impart revs on the ball.
Turning his attention to Chahal, Kumar observed, “His basics are so sound. Chahal’s run-up, delivery stride and release reminds me of classical leg-spinners from the past.”
Kumar elaborated, “Chahal releases the ball from the 12 o’clock position, delivers from the top of his head.
“There is more of top-spin and bounce in his bowling than side-spin.”
The fact that Chahal released his googlies from the fourth finger, made him conceal his googlies very well, felt Kumar.
While the Aussies need to figure out a way against India’s attacking wrist-spin duo, they also have to sort out their bowling combination.
Once Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile were off, there was a lot less pressure on the Indian batsmen in the ODI here.
And left-arm spinner Ashton Agar is a better bet than leggie Adam Zampa in an Indian line-up dominated by right-handers.
The Aussies have a difficult road ahead.
They need to be smart with selection.