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All-rounder Hardik Pandya holds the Indian flag after team's win over South Africa in the final last Saturday. Image Credit: Source: BCCI-X

Dubai: The air is filled with euphoria as the triumphant Indian team arrived back home after winning the Twenty20 World Cup.

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The team’s delayed arrival due to the hurricane in the Caribbean islands was greeted by numerous ardent fans, who were present to cheer their heroes despite the monsoon rains.

The triumph, which ended a 11-year wait for an international prize, was very pleasing for the Indian fans and the team management but the return of two stalwarts — Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant — who fought adversity, made better wonderful stories at the showpiece event.

Pandya’s resilience

The circumstances and situations are vastly different, but the two have endured real hardships to reclaim their rightful places in the Indian setup.

Pandya, who was the vice-captain during the victorious run where the Men in Blue remained unbeaten throughout the tournament, came into the World Cup after a lacklustre Indian Premier League season.

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The new Mumbai Indians captain was a shadow of his past and was constantly booed by the fans.

His game too cracked under the pressure, and along with all these issues on the field, social media was abuzz with rumors of Pandya’s impending divorce with his wife Natasa Stankovic, a former Bigg Boss contestant and dancer.

Runs continued to elude him during the early phase of the World Cup, but the talented all-rounder compensated with his bowling, which brought his confidence back in his batting. He scored in the Super Eight, including an unbeaten half-century against Bangladesh and a quickfire knock against England that swelled the total.

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Pandya was booed by fans after replacing Rohit Sharma as the captain of Mumbai Indians. But all those must have been forgotten with the celebratory hug from the Indian team captain. Image Credit: Source: ICC-X

Special moment

Pandya’s biggest contribution came in the final against South Africa when he turned the match on its head, dismissing the dangerous Heinrich Klaasen to bring India back into the contest and followed it up with two wickets in the final over.

“It’s very emotional, something was not clicking, but this was something the whole nation wanted. Special for me after my six months, I haven’t spoken a word, things have been unfair, but I knew there’d be a time I could shine. An opportunity like this makes it all the more special,” Pandya spoke about his travails after winning the trophy. “We always believed, stayed calm, let the pressure come to them. Last over, I knew I had to execute my plans. All of a sudden my run-up speed increases. I have been in this situation, I enjoy the pressure situation.”

Pandya’s cool head will be vital for Team India to move forward after the retirement of skipper Rohit Sharma, talisman Virat Kohli, and ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

The 30-year-old showcased his exceptional leadership qualities when he guided a young Gujarat Titans team to the IPL title in their maiden year, which gives the all-rounder the edge when Team India name their new skipper in the shortest format.

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Rishabh Pant's struggles have come to fruition with India winning the Twenty20 World Cup. Image Credit: Source: ICC-X

Pant’s remarkable comeback

But Pandya’s hardships pale in comparison to Pant’s, after the wicketkeeper’s near-death high-speed car accident.

The crash left the 26-year-old with a damaged ligament in his right knee, a hurt wrist and ankle, and abrasions to his back. Doctors at one time contemplated amputation of his right leg, but thankfully there was no damage to the nerves, which helped Pant get back on his feet.

He fought back after an intensive rehabilitation programme and time on crutches at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

Pant’s return has given the Indian batting the stability to move Kohli to the opener’s role, where the talisman scored runs heavily in the IPL this season. The progress made by Pant, both physically and mentally, in the World Cup will be important for the future of India.

Even though Pant had strong competition to regain his spot in the Indian World Cup team, the team management had immense faith in his abilities and hence he was anointed the No 1 choice. The left-hander did not disappoint them and was at his best with both the bat and his wicketkeeping.

Pant took three catches during the win against Pakistan in Group A to earn the best fielder award from former Indian all-rounder Ravi Shastri during the team awards ceremony in the dressing room.

But after the initial flourish, Pant could not live up to the expectations as the tournament advanced. Now with Kohli hanging up his boots, Pant needs to replicate the game-plan of his fellow Delhi star. If Pant takes a leaf out of Kohli’s book and adapts to the changes the talisman made in soaking up the pressure and unleashing towards the end, he could give India a winning total in the final at Barbados.

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Pant holds the World Cup aboard a charter flight from Barbados to New Delhi on Wednesday. Image Credit: BCCI/Video Grab

The future outlook

In fact, Pant could be the dangerous finisher, much in the mould of former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, with the top three slots in the Indian Twenty20 team potentially going to the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Shubman Gill.

Still, Pant possesses the talent to make it count. From crutches, he is ready to bolster the Indian team’s fortunes in the next decade. When the bus carring the champions parade the Marine Drive in Mumbai comes to a halt, a few stars will bid adieu and then it will be the turn of Pandya and Pant to steer the wheels of India’s fortunes.