Hardik Pandya received high praise from former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson after leading his Gujarat Titans side to the IPL 2022 title in his first tournament as captain.
Watson, who was assistant coach to Delhi Capitals during the tournament, said India had found a new captaincy after Pandya’s performance in the IPL.
Under Pandya’s leadership, Gujarat had a near-perfect campaign, finishing at the top of the table after the competition stage with 10 wins in 14 matches before scurrying through the knockouts and beating Rajasthan Royals in a one-sided final.
When asked what Pandya’s captaincy was in particular, Watson focused on the all-rounder’s attitude to leadership.
“What struck me the most was how calm and cold he was,” Watson said The ICC Review†
“He was optimistic about everything he did – what he did when he hit, in the field and also when he bowled.
“You could tell he really thrived with that leadership opportunity. It was a great opportunity for Hardik to move into a new team, hit number 4 and show that his skill is not just a power-hitter at the end. showed his captaincy and leadership qualities, which he would not have had this year if he had still been with the Mumbai Indians.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for him and an incredible thing for Indian cricket to know that they have another leader waiting in the wings if they need someone to act.”
India has undergone a complete change of leadership in the past eight months, with Virat Kohli stepping down initially as cue captain and then test captain. Rohit Sharma has been given the reins in all sizes but is 35 and the BCCI will no doubt try to groom others in the years to come.
While India is not short of options – the likes of KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer who have shown leadership capabilities – Pandya’s rise to the IPL trophy will not have gone unnoticed by those making decisions about the future of the team.
“With what I’ve seen during this IPL, he’s done a fantastic job,” Watson said. “Ultimately, that’s a great leader’s ability to bring that together. Hardik Pandya did an incredible job.
“Looks like he could handle the pressure of the captaincy mentally as well. India has discovered another beauty, which is great for them.”
However, Watson thinks it would be premature to make any decisions about India and Pandya’s leadership structure this year.
“Probably not for the current (ICC Men’s) T20 World Cup unless there are a few injuries,” Watson said. “But he’s definitely ready to go. If there’s a chance to come forward if Rohit Sharma gets injured, he’s ready to go.”
“There aren’t many teams around the world that have someone waiting in the wings like Hardik Pandya.”
As an all-rounder and former IPL captain, perhaps no one understands Pandya’s role better than Watson and when asked if an all-rounder offered a unique perspective on captaincy, Watson was adamant.
“It certainly does,” Watson said. “Understanding from a bowling perspective, you probably understand more than — this is my experience — a captain who is just a batter.
“Often they don’t know exactly what’s going through a person’s mind and how to redirect them to do the right things at the right time to give themselves a better chance of playing their best ball under pressure.
“From my experience, it’s a big advantage because at the top of your goal you know what’s going on in your head and that’s when you can help the person guiding you as a leader.”