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3 reasons why Hardik Pandya deserves a spot in the playing XI

There are comebacks to cricket, then there is the revival of Hardik Pandya, which shuts down criticism, undoes comparisons, wins titles and elevates personality. From being constantly abused and judged leading a team of apparent misfits to one of the IPL’s most dominating wins in his first season as captain is nothing short of remarkable.

The 28-year-old took his batting to another level – 487 points at 44.27 – by showing he can link the first order and the No. 3 and No. 4 finishers, build his innings with maturity and maintain his fearsome attack instinct. He exalted his bowling game by taking the new ball and showing pace, swing, rebound and tenacity.

His calm demeanor broke a few times (too few compared to his peers) but his nonchalant reaction – and eye to the big picture – soon after Gujarat Titans (GT) won the title, showed he was there for the right reasons too.

If these reasons aren’t enough for him to secure a spot in India’s squad for the upcoming five-T20I home game against South Africa, we’ve picked out three more below to suggest why India should build their squad. T20 around the versatile.

#1 Hardik Pandya needs to build on his stellar form

Hardik has played 15 matches in IPL 2022. These are his only competitive matches since the T20 World Cup 2021. In comparison, Delhi Capitals (DC) captain and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant has played 31 matches this type during the same period.

His fitness issues are recurring and long-lasting, even taking him out of bowling for months. He gave another fitness scare midway through the IPL 2022 and although he came back stronger, the lack of bowling contributions also impacted his batting – most of his lowest scores occurred when he played less than one over in a game.

In such a scenario, if he is to play a crucial role in the T20 World Cup 2022, it is imperative for India to buy him as much playing time as possible. Playing him in five T20Is against the Proteas could be the perfect start to bolster his consistency.

#2 Team Balance

Hardik’s importance can be gauged by the fact that his lack of bowling documents since 2019 led to the uncoupling of one of India’s most successful spin pairs – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – and disrupted the whole the bowling range.

The reason is simple – none of India’s top and mid-level regulars participate in the ball and stripping Hardik’s two to three overs (in a T20 game) forces them to drop a batter for an extra bowler, which puts more pressure on the batting lineup without significantly helping the team’s overall bowling ability.

While India might refrain from immediately reverting to the two-legged strategy, it will certainly be a part of the future if Hardik maintains his fitness.

#3 Leadership input

KL Rahul was selected as series captain with Pant as assistant.

Although Rahul reached the top four with Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), his team selections, use of certain players and his tactics on the pitch have often been criticized. He was also chastised for not taking a more proactive approach at the top of command – something Gujarat’s arguably less gifted players did superbly.

Pant, too, was decent as a hitter but lacked big scores and made a lot of unforgivable mistakes under pressure on the pitch which cost his team dearly.

Hardik, though still less experienced than the two, showed a better handle on both players’ issues. Even though he is not seen as a future captain of India (which a lot of pundits and fans believe would be wrong), he can fill the gap in knowledge of skipper and vice-captain against the Proteas.

Read also : IND vs SA 2022: Ishan Kishan or Rishabh Pant – who will be India’s wicket-keeper?

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