Decoded: Here's why Hardik Pandya could be the next Kapil Dev

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 27, 2017 17:28 hrs
Interestingly it was Kapil Dev who handed over the India cap to Hardik Pandya

An all-rounder plays a crucial role in the balance of the team irrespective of the format. Generally, a team goes into a match, with five batsmen, one all-rounder, one wicket-keeper and four bowlers.

If the team does not have a genuine all-rounder, they are forced to either play six batsmen and weaken the bowling or play five bowlers and sacrifice depth in batting.

In recent times, India have been fortunate to find one and Hardik Pandya is a cricketer whose star is in the ascendancy. He looks like a complete package as he can wield the bat with devastating effect and seems to strike sixes almost at will. He also has the ability to bowl bustling medium pace and is electric in the field.

In fact, he won the Man of the Match award on his debut in ODIs, for his bowling.

A lot of pundits and fans have gone gaga over his recent performances and are calling him the next Kapil Dev. That could be excused as giving in to hyperbole as there have been many young promising all-rounders in the past who have had to shoulder this unfair burden and have failed to live up to the initial expectations and hype.

Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar, Robin Singh and Irfan Pathan have been all-rounders who have represented India with distinction. However, none of them could match the achievements of the great Kapil Dev.

Since Hardik has played only three Tests and the previous generations did not play much T20 cricket, let us restrict our analysis only to ODIs. The table below gives the career batting stats of these four players and also those of Kapil Dev.

Player

Matches

Runs

Batt Ave

Batt S/R

 

 

 

 

 

Kapil Dev

225

3783

23.79

95.07

Ravi Shastri

150

3108

29.04

61.07

Manoj Prabhakar

130

1858

24.12

60.26

Irfan Pathan

120

1544

23.39

79.54

Robin Singh

136

2336

25.95

74.3

The following table gives the career bowling stats of the five all-rounders.

Player

Matches

Wickets

Bowl Ave

E/R

 

 

 

 

 

Kapil Dev

225

253

27.45

3.71

Ravi Shastri

150

129

36.04

4.21

Manoj Prabhakar

130

157

28.87

4.27

Irfan Pathan

120

173

29.72

5.26

Robin Singh

136

69

43.26

4.79

All of these five all-rounders represented India with distinction for a long time and their careers had the usual ups and downs that most cricketers go through. 

Hardik has played only 24 ODIs and the sample size is not enough to compare him with the above-mentioned cricketers as parameters like batting average, bowling average, batting strike rate and economy rate often fluctuate with time and sometimes a short career has peaks which cannot be sustained for a long time.

However, Hardik has shown enormous potential in his short career in ODIs to suggest that he is the real deal and that he can be the next great Indian all-rounder.

A better way to compare Hardik with the five players above would be to see their performances with bat and ball at that stage of their career in ODIs

So, the table below gives the career batting stats of those players and Hardik after the first 24 ODIs of their career.

Player

Runs

Batt Ave

Batt S/R

 

 

 

 

Kapil Dev

442

21.04

98

Ravi Shastri

267

22.25

52.66

Manoj Prabhakar

197

21.88

57.26

Irfan Pathan

203

18.45

74.9

Robin Singh

397

22.05

85.93

Hardik Pandya

489

40.75

122.55

Scoring rates in ODIs, have increased exponentially from the 1980s till 2017. To put things in perspective, batsmen like Gordon Greenidge and Javed Miandad were fine players but had batting strike rates in the 60s, whereas most modern-day players have batting strike rates in the mid-80s or even early 90s.

Yet, even taking that factor into account, Hardik is streets ahead of the other players and even better than Kapil Dev at this juncture of his career.

Barring Ravi Shastri, all the above-mentioned players used to bat lower down the order and used to come in with few overs left and had to score quickly in the limited time they had. In the 15 innings that he has batted in the 24 ODIs, Pandya has played in five different positions and his lowest strike rate in any of the five positions is 100.

He has come in at the death when quick runs were needed, he has been promoted up the order to hit the main opposition spinner out of the attack and he has had to temper his game and play uncharacteristically when he had to rescue his team from a precarious situation.

He has handled these different types of situations with aplomb. Earlier on in ODIs, he did not have that nuance in his game but has adapted admirably to different situations and is not just a one-trick pony.

So, when we compare Hardik with the five Indian all-rounders after 24 ODIs, we find that he has scored the most runs at a better batting average and also at a higher batting strike rate than the other five. 

Therefore, as far as his batting is considered, he can be considered the best of the lot even when you take into account the improvement in modern day batting averages and batting strike rates The following table gives the career bowling stats of all six players after the first 24 ODIs of each career.

Player

Wickets

Bowl Ave

E/R

 

 

 

 

Kapil Dev

37

31.08

3.53

Ravi Shastri

19

37.1

4.69

Manoj Prabhakar

17

42.25

3.86

Irfan Pathan

41

26.87

5.13

Robin Singh

20

32.25

4.98

Hardik Pandya

28

34.03

5.52

As far as bowling is concerned, Kapil, Prabhakar and Irfan Pathan opened the bowling while the others used to bowl later on. Kapil. Hardik has opened the bowling in just six out of the 23 innings which suggests that as he is more of a first or second change bowler and that given the vast resources that India has in the pace bowling department he cannot open the bowling very often.

Hardik is in third spot in the number of wickets taken amongst the six, has the second highest bowling average and is by far the most expensive even when you factor in the increased scoring rates of this era.

So, no matter how positive a spin you try to put on Hardik’s bowling he has a long way to go. Moreover, Hardik’s stronger suit is his batting and his bowling is still a work in progress.

To conclude Hardik has great potential as a batsman but needs to be more miserly and make a massive improvement with the ball to be called the next 'Kapil'.

We may also need to be more realistic in our expectations of him and view him as a batting all-rounder whereas Kapil was a bowling all-rounder.

One swallow does not make a summer but the numbers say that it is not blasphemous to compare Hardik to Kapil but he needs to pull up his socks with the ball.

However, he has shown enough prowess with the bat to show that the comparisons with Kapil are not premature and erroneous.

The author tweets@ravivenkat007

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