Hardik Pandya burst onto the Indian cricket scene after impactful performances for Mumbai Indians, as a youngster in 2015. Pandya is a multi-time IPL champion having won four titles with Mumbai and then went on to lead the Gujarat Titans to their maiden title in their debut season last year.
The expectation to continue delivering will be high as the 29-year-old all-rounder takes the field as the defending champions. IPL experts discussed the mercurial all-rounder and his team's prospects, in an episode of Insiders Preview -- Hardik Pandya on JioCinema.
Anil Kumble remarked on Pandya's incredible abilities as an all-rounder on the pitch, as well as a captain and said, "For a fast bowler to be bowling at that pace and then coming in and batting in whichever situation, we have seen that with Mumbai Indians, he did the finisher's role but last year we saw a different Hardik Pandya, the captain play a different role for Gujarat. In that sense, he's the complete package you'd expect from a player."
Zaheer Khan, a cricket expert, showered Pandya with praise for his versatility. "If you talk about an impact player, Hardik is the ideal impact player. In the situation where he bats, at number five or six, it is not easy, especially in this format where you have to use the last three or four overs to bat at a particular strike rate while facing ten to twelve deliveries. That's his speciality. His hand speed is exceptional and for a batter to have that hand speed and catch the ball, very few players can actually do that. Even when bowling, he can bowl at any phase, he is an all-phase bowler which is an asset."
Pandya stepped into the new stage of his career as a captain for the Gujarat Titans last season. Zaheer Khan hailed Pandya's ability to be an intelligent captain that takes advice from the experience around him, as seen in his relationship with head coach Ashish Nehra. "If you look at the previous IPL, what we saw was that Hardik had never captained before. That was an advantage for Ashish Nehra as well because when you haven't been a captain before, you want to learn the most about it. That's why Nehra and Pandya's partnership emerged as the Jodi No. 1 last season," said Khan.
Anil Kumble observed the crucial facets of captaincy that Pandya has imbibed from Dhoni. "He reads the game really well, just like M.S. Dhoni. You can see that in the way he bats and bowls, and also manages his bowling resources," said Kumble. (ANI)