R Ashwin has praised all-rounder Hardik Pandya for his exceptional batting skills against spin bowling. Ashwin reckons that Pandya’s transformation from finisher to top-order batsman since becoming Gujarat Titans captain has been remarkable.
Pandya began his Indian Premier League (IPL) career with Mumbai Indians, where he was primarily used as a finisher, coming in to bat during the later overs of the game. However, after being appointed as the captain of Gujarat Titans, Pandya started batting at No.3, demonstrating his versatility and adaptability as a player.
“I noticed this about Hardik. While he was playing for Mumbai Indians, he was donning only the finisher role. He will come to bat during the 15th, 16th, or 17th over. But the moment he became the captain and went to Gujarat Titans, he started batting at No.3. Hardik is a very clean striker against spin,” Ashwin said in a video on his YouTube channel.
Ashwin praised Pandya’s clean striking against spin bowling, highlighting his effective use of the slog sweep and conventional sweep shots. He recalled Pandya’s maiden Test century against Sri Lanka at Pallekele, where he effectively employed these sweep shots. Despite some critics suggesting that Pandya could be dismissed by leg-spin, Ashwin asserted that Pandya’s performance against spin bowling has been exemplary.
“Not saying that he struggles against fast bowling or anything. He has the slog sweep. He has the conventional sweep as well. In fact, I remember Hardik Pandya scored his first Test hundred at the same ground in Pallekele against Sri Lanka. He played those sweep shots in that game too. Some of them will tell you he can be dismissed if you bowl leg-spin to him. But his batting against spin has been exemplary,” Ashwin added.
Pandya’s cricketing journey has been marked by significant milestones. He made his India debut in 2016 and quickly rose to prominence in One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). His Test debut came a year later in 2017, against Sri Lanka, where he scored his first Test century just before lunch, setting a record for an Indian batsman.
Despite facing challenges due to injuries and a disappointing performance in the T20 World Cup, Pandya has continued to evolve as a player. His appointment as the captain of Gujarat Titans ahead of the new season saw him taking on more responsibility, leading the team to their maiden IPL title in 2022.