Newlands knock could be the real making of Hardik Pandya

The way Pandya batted, it was clear he had taken his lessons from the failure of the team's much more established batsmen.

Newlands knock could be the real making of Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya acknowledges the crowd's appreciation after reaching his fifty. (Credit: IANS)

Hardik Pandya had already had a Test ton to his name when the Indian team touched down in South Africa in late December. To the majority, he was already an established international player but there were also certain cautious voices that were willing to wait and keenly looking at the South Africa tour to get a true measure of his potential and promise.

After his performances on the first two days of the first Test at Newlands in Cape Town, those voices must feel a little assuaged. Pandya shone in both batting and bowling and the fact that the visitors are still in the game despite the main batsmen's unconvincing show is largely because of his efforts, especially during India's batting. His 93 off 95 balls, suffused with 14 fours and one six, ensured the South African lead was well under 100 and that the Indians weren't totally out of the frame. 

The way Pandya batted, it was clear he had taken his lessons from the failure of the team's much more established batsmen. He wasn't overly cautious and was constantly on the prowl for loose balls, unlike Rohit Sharma who scoffed 59 balls for 11 runs. Also he didn't let a couple of untoward moments to unsettle him. He was dropped on 15 by Dean Elgar, and a great many batsmen choose to drop anchor when they get a reprieve.

Not Pandya. He continued his attacking approach and right in the next over took three boundaries off a Vernon Philander over. He had moved on from that spilled catch. At 71, he got another chance when Quinton de Kock failed to collect a Keshav Maharaj delivery to effect a stumping. Again Pandya looked totally unperturbed and got a four later in the same over.

These are not ordinary qualities. The ability to quickly move on from your failures can go a long way.

And then he used his batting confidence while bowling and took two quick wickets in South Africa's second innings towards the end of the second day, at a time when Proteas opener Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar appeared to be running away with the match with a 50-run stand. He removed both batsmen in quick succession to give some boost to India's chances.

Pandya is not a threatening bowler but now and then he can surprise batsmen with either great movement or sharp bounce off the pitch. Faf du Plessis, victim of Pandya in the first innings, will vouch for that. The South African captain was looking good for a big score when the ball bounced a little extra and brought Wriddhiman Saha into play behind the wickets.

If truth be told, Pandya so far has been the only Indian who has succeeded in giving an impressive account of himself in what was already going to be a tough series for the touring batsmen.

If India win this Test match, Pandya can take all the credit for his valuable innings. If the result goes the other way round, he can again pat himself on the back for ensuring that India fought well and gave the hosts nothing on the platter. 

Comparisons have been made between Pandya and the great Kapil Dev, and the Pandya fans will feel, as all fans often feel in their unbounded adulation, that he is now comparable to one of the greatest all-rounders of the game. But let's not get carried away. Pandya will need many more such performances to be considered in the same street as the great man. For now, his fans should revel in the fact that the 24-year-old has many fewer question marks over his ability as an all-rounder, and that's no mean achievement. 

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