New Delhi, March 14 Former captain Sunil Gavaskar feels that star all-rounder Hardik Pandya will be an impact player as well as game changer for India in the middle order during the upcoming three-match ODI series against Australia.
Following an emphatic Border-Gavaskar Trophy which ensured the Rohit Sharma-led side retain the title with a 2-1 series win, the action now shifts to the ODIs as India and Australia square play series opener on Friday at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
The hosts will miss the services of the ‘Hitman’, who has given the first ODI a miss due to family commitments. Hardik Pandya, the regular vice-captain, will lead the side, as India aims to continue their dominance at home and set the right momentum with 2023 also being the year for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Ahead of the series, Gavaskar lavished high praise for Pandya’s leadership capabilities.
“What you see with Hardik Pandya as a captain is a sense of comfort with the rest of the team. Maybe, it’s the way he handles the players, puts his arm around the players… He just seems to give the players a sense of comfort. That’s so important to give a player a sense of comfort so that he can go and play his natural game. I think he encourages them, which is a wonderful sign.
Of course, the fact that he can be an impact player as well as a game changer in the middle order. Even for the Gujarat team, he was promoting himself up the order knowing that this is the time when the team needed some momentum and push, and he would do that,” the batting legend said on Star Sports show ‘Game Plan’.
So, someone who is prepared to take on responsibility, lead from the front, and who will not ask the players to do something that he wants to do himself, is highly crucial. So, when the players know that he’s just not putting us over there because he doesn’t want to be there, that he’s gone through the fire and he wants us to go through the fire. So, that’s the key as far as Hardik Pandya is concerned. He has been an impressive captain.
“I have been very impressed with his captaincy at the T20 level for the Gujarat Titans and for India when he is captaining the T20 side. I do believe that if he wins the first game in Mumbai, then you can almost stamp him as the India captain once the World Cup is over in 2023,” he added.
Meanwhile, former India fast bowler Ajit Agarkar had no doubts that once Rohit Sharma links up with the team for the remaining two ODIs, he will continue to show his batting prowess.
“His record speaks for itself. You do not need to say anything about Rohit’s performance in white ball cricket. He has taken a slightly different approach at times, trying to be the aggressor at the top of the order. Maybe, he changed it a little bit in the last series, giving himself a little more time and got the hundred. I just hope he plays every game that India plays from now on, every one-day, because you want your captain out there to just have a pattern of play,” Agarkar said.
“He is missing the first one due to personal reasons. From thereon, you will not have enough one-days to formulate your plans. You want Rohit out there, as physically demanding as it can be for the captain, you want him not to miss any games. With regards to his batting, I do not think there are any issues,” he added.