India suffered another loss at the hands of England in the third T20I and are now trailing in the series by 1-2. On a day that saw two batting masterclasses from Virat Kohli and Jos Buttler, India’s premier all-rounder Hardik Pandya failed to make any impact scoring 17 off 15 with the bat and conceding 22 runs in 3 overs.
There seem to be some doubts about Hardik and if he can do the fifth bowler’s job especially with his injury issues. Hardik has bowled nine overs in this series so far and has conceded runs at 7.6 rpo. For a fifth bowler, these numbers are perfectly fine. Although his T20 career economy of 9 is bad, he’s fairly good for a fifth bowler in middle overs phase where his economy is around 8. It’s the death overs phase where he goes at 12 rpo and he should not be bowling there.
Fifth bowler’s quota is not something you should worry about in T20s if you have four quality bowlers alongside. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar slowly finding his old self back with controlled swing, nailing yorkers effectively and Washington holding his own with terrific defensive bowling, India could have a lethal quartet of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Chahal and Washington or Ashwin. Hardik will only get benefitted from it. Besides, once Jadeja is back, Hardik won’t have to bowl four overs day in and day out.
After a long break from bowling, Hardik Pandya seems to be getting his rhythm back, mixing his variations and clicking 140 kmph. Him being able to do the job of the fifth bowler adds tremendous balance to the side and gives India another dimension as then they can try a dynamic left hander at the top of the order who can keep leg spin at bay in the powerplay.
Hardik Pandya and the batting issue that needs sorting
Hardik’s bowling is least of the worries. A far more pressing concern for India is his batting. The visuals of Hardik getting bullied by hard lengths must be haunting Indian fans. For a designated finisher to look as incompetent against raw pace as he did is just not good.
Hardik Pandya is one of the best finishers in the world in T20s. He’s been the second fastest run scorer for the last two IPL seasons striking at 191 and 179. Along with being one of the best spin power hitters in the world, Hardik is an extraordinary striker of pace, possessing an ability to smother anything that is pitched up. His strike rate of 187 and 192 in T20Is and T20s respectively reiterates just how good he is! But he has one major chink in his armour which has troubled him throughout his career.
As you can see in the above CricViz graph, Hardik has obvious weakness against hard lengths at his body and bouncers directed at his head. He can also be kept quiet by bowling hard lengths and bouncers on the wide line. While most teams haven’t targeted this issue enough, England have exploited the very weakness with their immaculate planning and execution. They haven’t let him free his arms and as a result Hardik has only managed to score 19 off 21 & 17 off 15 in two innings he’s batted in this series. His average of around 11 and strike rate of around 90 against hard lengths is abysmal for a player of his stature.
Based on the limited length data we have and from observing Hardik over the years, there’s a marginal difference between bowling back of a length and bowling short to him.
— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) March 13, 2021
Now that more and more teams will be looking to exploit his vulnerability, it’s an ominous sign for both Hardik and Team India. If Hardik truly wants to cement his legacy as the best T20 finisher, he needs to address this flaw in his game. And for India’s hopes of a World Cup, one would wish he reinvents himself very quickly.