Teams Played For
India, Baroda, Mumbai Indians, India A, India AT20, Indian Board Presidents XI, World XI
The great Kapil Dev set a standard for the highest quality an Indian all-rounder could achieve. Several candidates came and went with all of them carrying the tag or burden of following in the former Indian skipper’s footsteps. For the first time, an all-rounder might be breaking the ice and creating an identity of his own. It is none other than Hardik Pandya, the pace-bowling, a big-hitting all-rounder with the potential to be a match-winner in the long-run.
Both on and off the field, Hardik Pandya excites you. Tattoos, a fancy hairstyle, and some exotic costume would all make people think Pandya is living the best possible life. However, it wasn’t always so rosy. The Pandya family had a humble background with the family relocating from Surat to Vadodara so that the Hardik and his brother Krunal Pandya (Also an International cricketer) could join the Kiran More Academy.
After some good performances in club and age-group cricket, Hardik Pandya finally got the chance to represent Baroda in the 2012-13 season. He quickly made an impression especially in the 2013-14 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Some solid performances in that title-winning campaign caught the attention of Mumbai Indians’ scouting network led by former Team India coach John Wright with the IPL franchise eventually signing the pace-bowling all-rounder ahead of the 2015 IPL season.
In that season, Hardik didn’t set the tournament alight but he still came up with two eye-catchy performances. After bagging the ‘Man of the Match’ award for a superb cameo against CSK, Hardik scored his first IPL fifty against KKR in a crucial match and was awarded the MOM award once again. The talented all-rounder had to keep producing good performances and that is exactly in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy by scoring 377 runs in ten matches. He also took ten wickets and helped Baroda end the tournament as the runners-up.
Soon, a national team call-up came his way as the selectors named him for the T20I series in Australia. A 22-year-old at that point, he overcame a nervy start to pick two wickets in the first T20I at Adelaide. Hardik’s first opportunity to impress with the bat in international cricket came in the home series against Sri Lanka and he delivered with an impressive 12-ball 27 at Ranchi. He then went onto impress with the ball during the Asia Cup and the selectors picked him for 2016 WT20 in India too. Hardik held his nerve in the important group game against Bangladesh to defend two runs off the last deliveries.
Post the World Cup, the Surat-born player had a disappointing 2016 IPL campaign but he that to bed by coming up with a ‘Man of the Match’ performance on his ODI debut against New Zealand in Dharamshala. He remained consistent in both the ODI and T20 formats and also delivered for Mumbai Indians in the 2017 IPL. Post the triumph at the franchise level, Hardik also came close to glory with the Indian team at the Champions Trophy in England. Although India fell at the final hurdle against Pakistan, Hardik did put up a fight with his valiant 76-run knock.
It was only going to be a matter of time before a Test cap was awarded and it did arrive during the away tour of Sri Lanka in July 2017. After scoring a quick-fire 50 in his debut innings, Hardik brought up his first Test hundred at the Pallekele International Stadium. In his very next Test match, he impressed with a counter-attacking 93 off 95 balls against South Africa at the Newlands Stadium after coming into bat when India was in a spot of bother. His only other impressive performance in Test cricket came during the Trent Bridge Test match where he picked up a maiden five-wicket haul and also scored a fifty in the same game.
A relatively quiet 2018 was worsened by a back injury suffered during the against Pakistan in the 2018 Asia Cup with the all-rounder eventually having to miss out on the T20I series in Australia. Even though Hardik was added for the final two Tests against Australia, he wasn’t picked in the line-up. Problems mounted after that as the BCCI suspended both Hardik and KL Rahul for their comments during a TV show.
The suspension was lifted thereafter and the hard-hitting all-rounder made his comeback during the ODI series in New Zealand. With some proper focus on his bowling and batting against fast bowlers, Hardik made a strong return and starred during the 2019 IPL season. He produced 402 runs and 14 wickets and lifted his third IPL title with Mumbai Indians. Hardik then went onto have a decent 2019 World Cup where India fell at the sem-final stage against New Zealand before being rested for the tour of the West Indies.
He did play the T20I series at home against South Africa but was ruled out of the Test series. It was eventually ascertained that the back injury suffered during the 2018 Asia Cup resurfaced and he underwent surgery for the same. With the IPL being pushed back to September 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Hardik fully recovered to represent his franchise. Still only 27, Hardik will be expected to be a key figure for both Mumbai Indians and the Indian national team in all three departments.