At their best, few do what Hardik Pandya does. His gifts are rare and various, such as hitting the first ball he faces off the ground; how to set up a six-hit butchery, how to hit 85 mph on his first pitch; like sewing at this rate under favorable conditions. He can wear various outfits: that of Virat Kohli’s selfless and unique companion; that of the tie-end-up supporting act for Jasprit Bumrah, a bat-and-ball finisher. On joining surfaces, he can move the ball both ways; on slow decks, he unleashes his slowest cuts and balls; he brings balance and ballast, but only when he is at his best.
Pandya is like a multitasking lab-engineered specimen of a cricketer, but for a body that withers in the cauldron of international cricket. There could be more skilled players than him in individual facets. But as a healthy package, men like him are rare. Even more so for a country where versatile fast bowlers rarely sprout; even if they do, not with a similar pedigree as Pandya. It’s no wonder then that the coaches, captain, fans or whoever is closely monitoring Indian cricket is keeping tabs on him, even though he last played Test three years ago, and his appearances in cue ball cricket They are sporadic lately. Even in those games, he seemed like an impostor from his best years. [Read the full article]