Team India management missed a golden opportunity to name Hardik Pandya as the captain of the T20 series against South Africa after KL Rahul picked up a groin injury and instead named Rishabh Pant as the leader.
Pandya, who was instrumental with both and bat and leading from the front to fashion them into a winning outfit in their very first season in the world’s premier franchise league 10 days ago at the iconic Narendra Modi Stadium. Not many had given Gujarat Titans a chance when the season began as barring Rashid Khan, the franchise did not have any big names but Pandya got the best from all his players like Wriddiman Saha, Shubhman Gill, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson and Yash Dayal and every player put their hand up and gave their best and won them a game or two. In the end, Titans were clinical in winning the finals against Rajasthan Royals.
And who lead them from the front? It was their captain who first picked up three crucial wickets and also chipped in with useful 34 runs and ensured there were no hiccups and lifted the coveted IPL trophy. He led from the front scoring 497 runs, the highest for his franchise and also picked up eight wickets at an economy of just 7.25 per over. He was streetsmart in getting the right bowlers at the right time and his match-ups were spot on in almost every game.
India’s World Cup winning coach Gary Kirsten, who was a part of the Titans coaching team, said that leadership came naturally to Pandya and that he plays the game instinctively and takes it head-on. He added that Pandya engaged in a lot of cricket conversations and wants to learn, get better and improve and understand his players.
India had announced KL Rahul as the captain before the IPL got over and this was the best chance to test Pandya’s captaincy in an international format with the T20 World Cup just four months away. There were already talks about him being the future captain after he lead his side to the title and one wonders why the think tank of India let waste such an opportunity when Rahul got injured. Pant had actually struggled as captain and batsman for Delhi Capitals and this was the right time to test Pandya.
Sunil Gavaskar summed it up very well that when you have leadership qualities, it automatically opens the door for honours at the national level to be able to captain the national team. The way Pandya led from the front and the way he got his franchise players to gel as a team means he has leadership qualities.
India had appointed Rohit Sharma as the captain after Virat Kohli had stepped down but with Rohit being in the twilight of his career at 35 years, they could not have asked for a better replacement than mota bhai, Hardik Pandya!
- Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is the Vice Chairman of Danube Group