“You must remain there and complete the game. It matters staying not out.” These exchanges between Hardik Pandya and Tilak Varma were recorded by the stump microphone as India approached a crucial match against the West Indies. Tilak was batting on 44 when India needed 12 off of 23 to end the match. Tilak was already proving to be India’s find of 2023 with scores of 39 and 51 in the previous games. Since he had already hit four fours and a six, Tilak appeared to be on track to end the game with a second maximum after receiving the go-ahead from his captain.
But everything was suddenly altered. After Alzarri Joseph hurried Tilak and prevented the batter from getting under the ball with his quickness, Hardik took no prisoners and smacked a powerful six of his own over long off to give India the victory. Even though Tilak was stuck on 49, India’s victory was more important in the long run; however, for the next 24 hours, it didn’t matter. After the victory was assured, the entire nation turned against Hardik. Twitter erupted over the outrageous decision to prevent Tilak from scoring what would have been his second consecutive fifty for India.
People started to spread memes and engage in name-calling in an effort to denigrate an Indian captain. Why should the team’s goals be prioritised over those of the individual? Was the critique well-founded? The general consensus is, of course, a resounding yes. But if one uses reason, Hardik was unfairly treated. What specifically happened during those six pitches to cause Pandya to reconsider? We examine the cases.
Hardik Pandya granted Tilak a full over to do the task
During the infamous Multan Test in 2004, Rahul Dravid declared India’s innings with Sachin Tendulkar batting on 194; The Wall had allocated The Master Blaster a specific number of overs to accomplish his double century. However, as the time ran out and Sachin failed to get the final six runs in the allotted amount of time, Dravid found himself losing popularity. In a similar spirit, India still had 23 balls available when Hardik pushed Tilak to smash it out of the park.
However, over the course of the next six deliveries, Tilak’s pace slowed, necessitating a change in tactics. The first ball of the over was ruled wide. It was a short ball that was just outside leg that Tilak attempted to connect on but was unable. Then Alzarri used a variety of slower pitches, yorkers, half-volleys, and length balls. But Tilak could only generate singles, dots, and a single double. Tilak nearly sliced one backon because his timing had become erratic.
The ball was directly in Hardik’s area
There is a big difference between facing a bowler who is bowling with intention and one who is just going through the motions. Rovman Powell and his West Indies team noticed that their minds were already wandering to Lauderhill, Florida. Where the final two chapters of this tour would be written, with two runs to defend off 14. Powell recognised that the game was going to end inevitably and that with seven wickets left, even a miracle wouldn’t be sufficient. What was the West Indies captain’s response, then? He launched a long hop down Hardik’s striking zone that was gradual and soft. While the skipper could have chosen to leave or cautiously defend the ball in response to Pandya’s eyes lighting up. The need to thwart that powerful full swing of the bat proved to be too strong for him to resist.
When Sourav Ganguly was batting on 98 and India needed four runs to win in Kandy in a 2001 Test match between India and Sri Lanka, the memory sprang to mind. When his captain was struggling with his form at the time. Mohammad Kaif did everything he could to make sure he scored the winning runs and reached his century. But Kaif found it difficult to resist returning Dilhara Fernando’s leg-stump full toss. No words were spoken. Ganguly was, if anything, the happiest.
Hardik is not MS Dhoni
An old video of MS Dhoni blocking a ball from South Africa’s Beuran Hendricks. So, that Virat Kohli could score the winning runs surfaced as part of the Hardik bashing movement. Not to draw attention to it negatively. But if there were ever any aspirations that Hardik would take a page from Dhoni’s playbook from the 2014 World T20. Those people alone have full responsibility, not Pandya. Hardik cannot and will not attempt to imitate Dhoni in any way.