For a glorious couple of years, Indian cricket thought that they had found their answer to Wasim Akram in a lanky left arm pace bowler in Irfan Pathan.
Then a youngster from Baroda, Pathan burst onto the screen as a new ball bowler in Australia, when he caused quite a stir by impressing against the mighty Aussies.
His aggression and attitude won many hearts, as Irfan Pathan was all set to take the cricketing world by storm. But unfortunately for him, the script did not go according to plan as a combination of injuries, lack of form and bad advice derailed his career.
Fast forward to today, and another young man from Baroda is causing a stir against the Aussies. Hardik Pandya has already made great strides in international cricket, and his performances in the ongoing series against Australia only serves to show the value that he brings to this Indian side.
He arrived a couple of years ago as a hard hitting batsman who could also contribute a few overs with the ball. As he played more and more, Pandya has morphed into an match winner with the bat but it is his development with the ball that has really elevated his game to the next level.
Pandya is now on hand to give his side between 6-8 overs per match, something which gives so much balance to the team. If he could give Kohli 10 quality overs a match, then he becomes someone of enormous value to the team.
The value of a seam bowling all-rounder cannot be stressed enough. Almost every great team through the ages had at least one such player in their ranks.
Even though Irfan Pathan only played for four-five years for India, his contribution in that time was hugely important.
Between 2003 and 2008, Pathan was integral to India’s success. Australia 2003-04, Pakistan 2004, World T20 2007 and the CB Series 2008 all had Pathan firing for his team.
Pandya needs to become that sort of player, but he also needs to learn from Pathan’s failure. When he had the world at his feet, Irfan Pathan received some terrible advice that did him no good at all.
It also seemed that all the hype and expectations from him seemed too much for Pathan to handle. The premature comparisons with the great Akram proved to be wide off the mark. When he realized that his bowling was out of sorts, he tried to improve upon his batting, but in reality it did not help in either department.
Instead of sticking to what he knew best, Pathan tried his hand at several things at once which ultimately proved to be fatal. Pandya should not repeat this mistake. He must accept his role as a finisher in the lower middle order, and look at improving his bowling performances for the team.
And yes, if the opportunity does provide itself to come up the order, he should take it with both hands. But he should not suddenly become someone who does not have a fixed spot in the side, ala the Irfan Pathan of 2006.
The demise Irfan Pathan’s international career remains one of Indian cricket’s biggest tragedies, which is why people should be careful with Hardik Pandya.
You don’t want another “What If” case for Hardik Pandya’s career.