Dilip Vengsarkar sees ‘very fine all-rounder’ Hardik Pandya as an option for future India captain

Former India captain and selector Dilip Vengsarkar believes Hardik Pandya, who will lead India for the first time in the T20Is against Ireland, is a long-term captaincy option for the squad. Vengsarkar said he was impressed with Hardik’s leadership skills in the IPL 2022, where he led Gujarat Titans to a title win in their inaugural season. Roger Binny, another former selector, also echoed Vengsarkar’s thoughts, but was wary that Hardik might under-bowl himself as captain.

“He came in the battle at the fall of two wickets [in the IPL 2022 final]said Vengsarkar on the sidelines of the launch of the 1983 World Cup Opus, a limited edition coffee table book in partnership with Paymentz, an Indian payment gateway platform. “He led from the front and led the team very well in his first major tournament as captain. An all-rounder plays an important role in the team. He is an option [but] it depends on the selectors, their vision and plans.”

Hardik’s career has seen a number of swings since his Indian debut in 2016, from a dangerous lower order batter to an injury-prone all-rounder and then to an IPL-winning captain. He also had a long-standing back problem and had not played for India since they were eliminated in the group stage of the 2021 T20 World Championship, until the T20I series of five games at home to South Africa earlier this month.

“He [Umran Malik] should be given a chance right away. He’s proven he’s fast – seeing him bowling some of those Yorkers in the IPL was brute force. You can’t keep a youngster out that long.”

Roger Binny

“The way he came back from injury is amazing,” said Vengsarkar. “He must have worked very hard on his fitness. He did very well in the IPL and as captain he did well too. [He is a] very fine all-rounder.”

After starring in the Titans campaign, scoring 487 runs and returning eight wickets with the ball back in the tournament, Hardik impressed with the bat against South Africa. He scored 117 runs in the series with an average of 58.50 and a strike rate of almost 154. He also bowled a total of five overs – even though he didn’t take a wicket – showing that he is fit to fill in as an all-rounder .

“He has to lead from the front,” Binny said at the same event in Mumbai. “Sometimes you tend to over- or under-bowl yourself – often you do that as captain. But then you have other players on the side to advise.

“You have to keep performing. When you get the position of captain/vice-captain you have to lead from the front and play constantly. He has to keep an eye on the injuries because he tends to be under the weather. So that will the utmost in his mind and also in the minds of voters and those who watch.”

Vengsarkar also called fast bowler Umran Malik an “exciting prospect” and hoped to see him at the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.

Malik took 22 wickets in 14 appearances for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2022 before being called up to the national squad for the home series against South Africa. Although he didn’t make his debut, he was named in the T20I squad for the Ireland tour.

“He is a very exciting talent,” Vengsarkar said. “He did well in IPL and he deserves a chance as he looked like the best bowler in the format. I hope he’s on the plane [to Australia] and I’m sure he’ll do well if given the chance. He is young and eager to go. He is young, playful and hungry for success.”

Binny seconded Vengsarkar, saying: “He should be given a chance right away. He’s proven he’s fast – seeing him bowl some of those Yorkers in the IPL, that was brute force. It was a long time.”

S Sudarshanan is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo

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