Vengsarkar sees 'very fine allrounder' Hardik Pandya as option for future India captain

He also hopes to see “exciting prospect” Umran Malik make the T20 World Cup squad

Former India captain and selector Dilip Vengsarkar believes Hardik Pandya, who is set to lead India for the first time in the T20Is against Ireland, is a captaincy option for the side in the long term. Vengsarkar said he was impressed with Hardik’s leadership skills in the IPL 2022, where he led Gujarat Titans to a title win in their inaugural season. Roger Binny, another former selector, also echoed Vengsarkar’s thoughts but was wary of Hardik potentially under-bowling himself as captain.

“He came into bat at the fall of two wickets [in the IPL 2022 final],” Vengsarkar said on the sidelines of the launch of the 1983 World Cup Opus, a limited edition coffee table book in association with Paymentz, an Indian payment gateway platform. “He led from the front and guided the team very well in his first major tournament as captain. An allrounder plays an important role in the team. He is an option [but] it depends on the selectors, their vision and plans.”

Hardik’s career has seen a few swings since his India debut in 2016, from being a dangerous lower-order batter to an injury-prone allrounder and then to an IPL-winning captain. He had also been managing a long-standing back problem and hadn’t played for India since they dropped out in the group stages of the 2021 T20 World Cup, until the five-match home T20I series against South Africa earlier this month.

“He [Umran Malik] should be given a chance straightaway. He has proved he is quick – if you saw him bowl some of those yorkers in the IPL, that was brute force. You can’t keep a youngster out for so long.”

Roger Binny

“The way he came back from injury is great,” Vengsarkar said. “He must have worked very hard on his fitness. He did very well in the IPL and as a captain he did well. [He is a] very fine allrounder.”

After playing a starring role in Titans’ campaign, scoring 487 runs and returning eight wickets with the ball in the tournament, Hardik impressed with the bat against South Africa. He scored 117 runs in the series at an average of 58.50 and a strike rate close to 154. He also bowled a total of five overs – even though he didn’t pick up a wicket – showing that he is fit to fill in as an allrounder.

“He’s got to lead from the front,” Binny said at the same event in Mumbai. “Sometimes you tend to over-bowl or under-bowl yourself – lot of times as a captain you do that. But then you have other players in the side to advice.

“You have to keep performing. When you get the post of captain/vice-captain, you have got to lead from the front and got to be consistently playing. He’s got to watch the injuries because he tends to be under the weather. So that’ll be utmost on his mind and also in the minds of the selectors and those watching.”

Vengsarkar also termed fast bowler Umran Malik an “exciting prospect” and hoped to see him in the T20 World Cup later this year in Australia.

Malik picked up 22 wickets in 14 matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2022, after which he was called up to the national side for the home series against South Africa. Although he didn’t make his debut, he was named in the T20I squad for the tour of Ireland.

“He is a very exciting talent,” Vengsarkar said. “He did well in IPL and he deserves a chance as he looked the best bowler in the format. I hope he is in the plane [to Australia] and I am sure he will do well if given an opportunity. He is young and raring to go. He is young, keen to play and hungry for success.”

Binny seconded Vengsarkar, saying: “He should be given a chance straightaway. He has proved he is quick – if you saw him bowl some of those yorkers in the IPL, that was brute force. You can’t keep a youngster out for so long.”

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