Ahead of the first T20I against New Zealand, India’s acting head coach VVS Laxman, said Hardik Pandya is a ‘players’ captain’.
Hardik Pandya did lead India to a 2-0 win against Ireland earlier this year in his first assignment as the skipper but his real test will be on Friday when he leads a young Indian side against New Zealand in a three-match T20I series. There will be extra scrutiny on Hardik’s leadership skills as he has emerged as the front-runner leapfrogging KL Rahul, who had a torrid time with the bat in the T20 World Cup, to take over the T20 reins from Rohit Sharma as India look to build a team for the future. Hardik’s growth as a leader has been immense in the last year or so. It was on full display when he led Gujarat Titans to the IPL title in their maiden season. Even when he has played for India now, he displays calmness and maturity beyond imagination. Virat Kohli said it was Hardik who kept him calm when India’s backs were against the wall during the chase against Pakistan in a T20 World Cup match.
Ahead of the first T20I against New Zealand, India’s acting head coach VVS Laxman, said the all-rounder is a ‘players’ captain’. The former India batter listed four big leadership qualities in Hardik. “He is a fabulous leader. We have seen what he has done in IPL. I have spent time with him from Ireland. His presence and work ethic are exemplary. He is a players’ captain and is approachable. Players confide in him. He leads by example,” Laxman said on the eve of the series opener in Wellington.
Notably, Laxman was India’s coach when Hardik was captaining India in Ireland earlier this year. The first job of Hardik and Laxman will be to shed the conservative tag that has haunted India in the last two editions of the T20 World Cup.
“In T20I cricket, we need to play with freedom and fearlessness and we have such players that can go out and express themselves. The message given to them by the captain and management is that they bat fearlessly but also keep conditions and situations in mind and create strategies accordingly,” said Laxman in a press conference.
Laxman admitted that the shorter format needs more multi-dimensional players, bowlers who can bat and batters who can bowl.
“More number of bowlers who can bat adds depth to batting lineup and gives freedom to batters to go out and express themselves. That is the need of the format and I am sure that more teams will try getting this in their selection process and identify players who are multi-dimensional,” he added.
Laxman said that it is always challenging to play in New Zealand, especially for bowlers and fielders.
“It is not about the smaller grounds, but the dimensions of the ground. In Wellington and Aukland, there are not normal cricket grounds. The best part of international cricket is that you have to adapt to conditions and situations. I am sure the team will do that. Based on the strengths and weakness of the opponents, you need to create a strategy and execute it perfectly,” he added.
On strategising against Kiwi players like Finn Allen, Laxman said that analytics play an important role for the team to create strategies against not only every player, but also the ones who are not very familiar to the side.
Laxman also said that he has enjoyed his journey as a coach.
“For me, we should not dive too much into results. It has been enjoyable for me. When I joined NCA, it was about giving back to Indian Cricket. It has been an opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with youngsters and it is fulfilling. What I saw in Ireland, that these youngsters are talented, but they always want to learn, grow and improve as players and it is exciting. Their thought process is exciting,” he added.
Laxman said that the Indian Premier League (IPL) has helped create a talent pool in white-ball cricket while the robust domestic cricket structure has done the same for red-ball cricket.
On a hectic cricket schedule, Laxman admitted that it is indeed the case and India is blessed to have so many young talents to choose from.
“As selectors, you have to be mindful when a player is supposed to be given breaks as they help him rejuvenate physically and mentally. India has that pool from which we can choose. In white-ball, you need specialists. You need T20I specialists, which will be the way forward. Managing their workload, choosing the talent from the pool we have is a blessing for Indian cricket,” he concluded.