Hardik Pandya has emerged as one of the mainstays in Indian side © AFP
Hardik Pandya has emerged as one of the mainstays in Indian side © AFP

Hardik Pandya, in 2017, became only the second Indian cricketer after Kapil Dev to score over 500 runs and claim 30 wickets in ODIs. Kapil achieved the feat in 1986. Time and again, Pandya has drawn comparisons with the legendary Kapil. Rahul Dravid, who has mentored Pandya in India A, credits the all-rounder for making the most of his rare talent.

“Hardik came into the team because of himself. He is the one who has put in the performances and he is the one who has that x-factor. When you are a fast bowling all-rounder in India, there aren’t many to compete with and that’s the reality,” Dravid told reporters at the pre-departure press conference for the Under-19 World Cup team.

Pandya has been a regular feature in India’s limited-overs setup for almost 2 years now. His ability to hit big and bowl at a brisk pace makes him an asset to the national side. He has also done well in the 3 Tests that he has played. Speaking about the dearth of fast bowling all-rounders, Dravid said, “If you are a batsman or a spin bowler in the country, it’s tough because there are a lot of people you compete with. But fast bowling all-rounders, you can count on fingers of one hand, how many fast bowling all-rounders are playing in India?”

How Pandya made it count?

Dravid recalled the time when India were desperately looking out to fill the slot of a fast bowling all-rounder.

“When that opportunity opened up in the Indian team, we needed to identify that kind of person and credit to the selectors. I can go back to the earlier selection committee, when I first took over the India A job. I remember in Madras, even from that time, this thought was there that we need to identify fast-bowling all-rounder in future, Vijay Shankar, Stuart Binny played that role.

“Hardik got that opportunity when Vijay got injured and didn’t come to Australia and he (Hardik) grabbed it with both hands. He bowled quick and batted beautifully, in a particularly Test match, when were 40-6 and got 70, and credit to it he has grabbed it.

“So sometimes you know, sometimes it can happen with certain roles and specifics that people do get fast-tracked because the opportunity exists,” Dravid recalled as he went on to explain the rise of Pandya.

Pandya will be crucial to India’s success in South Africa. The first Test starts January 5 at Cape Town.