He made this observation while talking about the value the all-rounder brings to the table in a video shared on his Facebook page.
Aakash Chopra started by pointing out that Hardik Pandya is becoming the most prized asset of the Indian limited-overs team ahead of the stalwarts like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. He added that the 27-year-old will have to play a significant role if India are to win the T20 World Cup next year.
“Hardik Pandya is fast becoming India’s most valuable player in white-ball cricket. His firing continuously is necessary. He is going to be more valuable than Kohli, Rohit, Bumrah. If India has to win the World T20, Hardik Pandya could be the one to play the biggest role in that.”
The reputed commentator highlighted that India has not enjoyed title-winning runs in the recent World Cups despite some of their top-order batsmen like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma being amongst the runs.
“To start with Hardik Pandya the batsman, India has not won the last few limited-overs World Cups. Our top-order has always been good, Rohit Sharma scored five centuries in one World Cup and Virat Kohli always scores runs.”
He added that India cannot rely only on their top three batsmen and would need players to finish games, especially with MS Dhoni having called it a day from international cricket.
“But why we don’t win the matches in the end? Earlier there was Dhoni who used to be left alone. Now with Dhoni having left, there is no one. If you have to win the next World Cup, there is no way you can win it with just Rohit, Rahul and Kohli in the top three.”
The former KKR player pointed out that finishing a match is a specialist skill and cannot be acquired easily.
“It will not work with that, you need finishing because that is India’s problem in T20 or ODI cricket. We bowl well but get the problem in the finishing with the batting. The strong finishers are not present, it is a different skill which cannot be taught.”
Aakash Chopra observed that Hardik Pandya has grown by leaps and bounds in the and role and has shown the ability to adjust his game according to the demands of the situation.
“The rise we have seen of Hardik Pandya, the way he has grown as a player from the first IPL till now, it seems that he owns the place. In ODI cricket, if there is a collapse batting first then he takes his time, if you send him at the end, he just smashes the sixes.”
The 43-year-old gave the example of Hardik Pandya’s knock in the second T20I against Australia, where he proved he could perform the role that only MS Dhoni was able to do in the recent past.
“If you talk about the second T20I, in the recent past you would have felt that it is only possible if Dhoni is there but otherwise there is no chance. But this time when Hardik was batting, we were also feeling and he was also feeling that there is no tension and that he will manage.”
He opined that Rishabh Pant is the only other Indian who could take on the responsibility but has fallen off the radar due to his inconsistent performances.
“The manner in which he has batted in ODI cricket and T20 cricket, in that batting position if you search the entire India, I can see only Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant to some extent but his temperament at the moment and his experience of not utilising his chances because of which he is currently out of the team.”
Aakash Chopra reckons that India should bat Hardik Pandya at the No. 5 spot in both limited-overs formats of the game to make the best use of his abilities.
“As a batsman he should be played at No.5 both in ODIs and T20Is. You need to try and send him up the order because the maturity, the upgraded batting software needs to be utilised fully by Team India.”
Referring to Hardik Pandya’s bowling, Aakash Chopra highlighted that India’s search for all-rounders has proved futile over the years.
“Coming to his bowling, India has been searching for all-rounders for ages. An all-rounder is required because you play only 11 players, you end up with twelve. Searching for an all-rounder in the entire nation will be like searching for a needle in a haystack.”
The former Test opener pointed out that India does not really have any other quality all-rounders and have to manage with just the five bowlers in the playing XI.
“We just do not have all-rounders. We play with five bowlers because we do not have all-rounders. The others in contention are way behind.”
He observed that Hardik Pandya could solve that problem by playing the dual role of a No. 5 batsman and the sixth bowler who can bowl a few overs.
“So, if Hardik Pandya starts bowling, just think about it, the T20 world Cup is on, Hardik Pandya the batsman at No.5, Hardik Pandya the bowler who gives you three to four overs regularly, just suddenly your T20 team becomes one of the most potent sides.”
Aakash Chopra signed off by iterating that Hardik Pandya is slowly becoming India’s most crucial player in limited-overs cricket due to his all-round prowess.
“So, Hardik’s batting and bowling. In my opinion, he is becoming the most important player in white-ball cricket for Team India.”
Hardik Pandya has played the middle-order batsman’s role with aplomb in the ongoing limited-overs series against Australia. He has adjusted his game as per the demands of the situation and has been India’s standout performer with the bat.
The Indian team management would be hoping that he gets back to full bowling fitness at the earliest, as that would lend the much-needed balance to the unit.
.@hardikpandya7, with an average of nearly 90, has emerged as India’s go to batsman in white ball cricket, behind @imVkohli. Time is ripe for Hardik to be added to the Test squad, in this red hot form worth holding him back in Australia
— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) December 6, 2020