All-rounder Hardik Pandya is tipped to be India’s future captain after leading a quirky debut team to victory in the world’s most valuable cricket tournament. Pandya’s Gujarat Titans defeated Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets in the Indian Premier League final on Sunday, with the skipper taking three wickets and scoring 34 runs in front of nearly 105,000 fans in the world’s largest cricket stadium.
It was the culmination of an extraordinary season that kicked off with pundits thrashing the side’s signings in the players’ auction, questioning Pandya’s captaincy appointment and predicting a poor outcome for the expansion franchise’s first season.
But the 28-year-old – a flamboyant cricketer who loves his tattoos and expensive watches, and was once banned for sexist comments on a TV show – has proved a revelation in his first leadership role.
Commentators have praised the precision of his decision-making and field determination in the Twenty20 format.
In the wake of the Titans’ triumph at their home base in Ahmedabad, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said Pandya would be a worthy choice to follow in his footsteps.
“Having leadership skills automatically opens the door to national-level honors to be captain of the Indian national team in the near future,” said the batter.
“The way he’s led the team, the way he’s brought them together, the way he’s brought them together, means he has leadership qualities,” he told Star Sports.
“Not just my guess, but everyone’s. This was an aspect of his game that no one had too much information about.”
The national squad is currently led in all formats by Rohit Sharma, who was appointed earlier this year following Virat Kohli’s resignation from ODI, but at 35 he is unlikely to be a long-term captain and will be equipped for a home series against South Africa in June.
Rohit’s five-time IPL champion Mumbai Indians had a disastrous season, finishing at the bottom of the rankings.
‘Dream come true’
A hard-hitting middle-order batsman and fast bowler, Pandya has played 11 Tests, 63 one-day internationals and 54 Twenty20 matches for India.
A back injury kept him out of the T20 World Cup last year, but he proved his fitness with 487 runs and eight wickets in 15 IPL games to earn a recall from the Twenty20 series of five games against South Africa that ended on 9. June starts.
Indian media reports say he could get his first taste of national leadership in two T20s in Ireland later in June.
Pandya said he had “always enjoyed responsibility” and “kind of gets the best out of me”.
His next goal, he told reporters after the IPL win, was to “absolutely win the World Cup for India, no matter what.
“Playing for India has always been a dream come true no matter how many times and how many matches I’ve played. And the kind of love and support I get is just from the Indian team’s point of view.”
India, then captained by Kohli, failed to make it to the semi-finals of last year’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, but will have another shot at the title when Australia hosts the next edition later this year.
Former New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori believes that captaincy should not burden Pandya as all-rounders are used to wearing different hats.
“I think what we forget about all-rounders is that they have so much responsibility on them anyway,” he told ESPNcricinfo.
“So they can really handle it because they’re bowling all day, batting all day, they’re used to being always busy.”
Pandya was “very authentic,” he added. “He is comfortable with leadership, with responsibility.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)