Hardik Pandya equally deserving of Player-of-the-Match award: Sachin Tendulkar
Hardik Pandya was the gamechanger for India with the ball (Getty Images).

Former India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar feels Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya were equally deserving of the Player-of-the-Match award for their vital contributions during India’s 203-run rout of England in the third Test. For his 200 runs in the match, Indian captain Kohli was declared the Player of the Match but according to Tendulkar, Pandya had an equal share in it.

“I would have made them share the award. Both players played important roles in India’s victory,” Tendulkar said in reply to a question during a live interaction on his app 100MB.

“Both of Virat Kohli’s innings was very significant. The first innings helped give India a strong foundation and the century in the second innings ensured that India set an improbable target. At the same time, I feel that Hardik also played an important role, especially in the first innings,” Tendulkar said.

While it was Kohli, whose 97 and a 159-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane brought India back in the match in the first innings, Pandya’s emphatic performance with the ball – that saw him register his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests, turned the game on its head.

He was at the forefront of India’s demolition job with five wickets in 29 balls, his best returns as a Test allrounder, on a day on which 16 wickets fell. From 46 without loss going into lunch on Day 2, England lost all ten wickets in the afternoon session. By stumps, India’s lead had swelled to 292 and Pandya, the bowling hero of the day, was chuffed with his performance and the team’s position. He later returned to score a half-century as India sought quick runs before declaring and setting England a target of 521.

“His five wickets were critical. Players like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow are in-form batsman, and to dismiss them early was vital. He even scored a quick-fire fifty in the second innings to take the target beyond 500. Eventually, it comes down to a matter of opinion,” Tendulkar said.

Pandya, 24, has found himself at the end of some criticism during this series. West Indian legend Michael Holding  questioned Pandya’s all-round skills in the aftermath of India’s innings defeat at Lord’s, before clarifying his take on the topic, while former India offspinner Harbhajan Singh was even more critical, stating that the Pandya needed to be disassociated with as an allrounder. Former India batsman VVS Laxman felt that Pandya should have been dropped for the second Test, and Greg Chappell termed Pandya a work in progress.

Addressing the media after his game-changing performance, Pandya said that he didn’t care what people thought of him as long he continue to perform and that he would rather be focussed on being the first Hardik Pandya than being the next Kapil Dev, the World Cup winning captain to whom Pandya has been regularly compared.