When Hardik Pandya burst into international cricket, he brought in a lot of promise with him. A medium fast bowler with a knack of picking up wickets and his ability to tonk huge sixes was the USP that Hardik brought in with him. Infact, Hardik Pandya soon found himself getting compared with the same elite list as the Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff and Ben Stokes. The balance that Hardik provided to the Indian side solved a lot of selection conundrum of team India.
Fast forward five years, Hardik Pandya is still an integrated part of the Indian setup but has succumbed to injuries that has significantly reduced his effectiveness as a bowler. Although, Hardik can still walk into any team owing to his batting prowess, the quest of finding the next all rounder for team India is still on.
Today, we will be discussing about the fact that whether India has found an able backup to Hardik Pandya for the years to come.
In a nutshell the answer is "No". Although there have been many players who have been tried upon but none could match the X-Factor that Hardik Pandya brings to the table.
Today we will be looking at the potential options who can play the role of Hardik Pandya in the years to come if groomed properly.
Vijay Shankar: Vijay Shankar was brought into the Indian setup as a backup of Hardik Pandya. A medium pacer with a decent batting technique, Vijay Shankar belongs to that class of bits and pieces player who can play as the 6th bowling option for his team, if not the 5th. On the other hand, his batting prowess doesn't guarantee him a top 6 position in the batting order. Shankar got opportunities to cement his place in India's middle order but due to lack of power hitting, he couldn't stamp his authority. In IPL too, Vijay Shankar plied his trade as a death over specialist but lack of opportunities and his injury prone body has cut short his Indian dreams.
Shivam Dube: Often touted as the next Yuvraj Singh in terms of strokeplay, Shivam Dube burst into the scene owing to his dynamic performances in domestic cricket. A lower middle order hard hitting batsman with his ability to bowl medium pace, escalated his entry to the Indian T20 team. But as fate would have it, Shivam Dube failed to grab his opportunities with the bat and his bowling too was taken to cleaners by the opposition batsmen. Dube currently plays for Rajasthan Royals in IPL after being released by Virat Kohli led Royal Challengers Bangalore and a national comeback looks a distant dream for him.
Shardul Thakur: Shardul Thakur has been projected as the next pace bowling allrounder by many experts and Thakur hasn't disappointed in his limited opportunities he has got. A medium fast bowler with a lot of variations and a golden arm, Shardul has often been entrusted in bowling the tough overs and Shardul has delivered more often than not with his knack of picking up crucial wickets. His batting too has been impressive especially in Test matches where he has already notched up 3 50s batting at 8. Shardul Thakur has the credibility to belong to the group of bowling all-rounders much like the Chris Woakes and Jason Holder and it is high time that team India backs him properly.
Harshal Patel: This may come as a bit of surprise but the current purple cap holder of the IPL 2021 is no bunny with the bat. Infact, he strikes at a strike rate of around 150 in the domestic T20 matches he has featured in. The IPL has often been the launchpad of many standout performers in the Indian team and it is only a matter of time that we see Harshal Patel featuring in Indian colors and along with his bowling, he may be required to play with the willow as well.
Venkatesh Iyer: Venkatesh Iyer has emerged as the next big thing for Kolkata Knight Riders in the UAE leg of the Indian Premier League. A left handed hard-hitting opening batsman,Iyer has impressed many with his fearless strokeplay and aggressive batsmanship. His bowling too has been an added bonus as he bowled many tough overs for Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL. Although it is very early to predict whether Venkatesh Iyer would actually fit into the scheme of things for team India but he has started ticking the right boxes from the start itself.
I sincerely hope that Hardik Pandya returns to the Indian fold sooner or later and we might soon someone else from the list above teaming up with Hardik in tandem for team India.