Is Hardik Pandya a better captain than Rishabh Pant?

Hardik Pandya seldom takes the tried and tested routes to be successful. He is a maverick, enjoys the spotlight and brings out his best when the backs are against the walls and detractors are ready to criticise his every move.

Back in 2016, when he made his India debut, it was not because he was slamming the door down in domestic cricket. He looked like the all-rounder India had been searching for since Kapil Dev. He looked like a phlegmatic character, one that wants to be pushed when the odds are stacked against him. He looked different!

Hence, when he was snapped up by the Gujarat Titans and made captain, there was plenty of debate and deliberation over this decision. He did not have any captaincy experience, seemed like a character that wanted to have fun on the field. But by the time =season ended, Hardik had evolved as a leader, batter, and bowler.

The Rishabh Pant conundrum

On the other hand, we have Rishabh Pant. A match-winner, a crowd puller, an entertainer. In Test cricket, he has created a huge impact, forcing opponents to chalk up special plans for him. His game looks tailor-made for limited overs cricket and yet, he has not found his range against the white ball.

Rishabh Pant has been patchy in white ball cricket
Rishabh Pant has been patchy in white ball cricket

There is enough indication that he can be a good leader of men. He is a popular member of all the dressing rooms that he has been a part of. As a wicket-keeper, he has the best view of the game and yet, when he makes decisions on the field, they seem forced.

There are few good ones along the way, but it seems as if he is still looking to establish his presence, both as a player and as a captain in limited overs cricket.

When he led India against South Africa in the recently-concluded T20I series, there were a number of praise-worthy decisions, but his batting misfired. Pant the batter looked bogged down, as was the case when he was captaining the Delhi Capitals.

This is where Hardik could have been the better choice. If his season with the Gujarat Titans is anything to go by, his performances have improved with the responsibilities of captaincy.

Test for Hardik Pandya, the captain

He will now lead the Indian team for the upcoming T20I series in Ireland. The stars are aligning for him as Pant will be away with the Test team. Rahul Dravid has already said that Pant would not be too pleased with the way he has performed in white-ball formats.

Pant is pitted against Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, Dinesh Karthik for the wicket-keeper batter spot and needs to hit his stride to even retain his place in T20Is. As such, Hardik with his all-round skills could tip the scales in his favour.

Hardik Pandya was sensational as Gujarat captain
Hardik Pandya was sensational as Gujarat captain

In the IPL, Hardik Pandya showed that he can bat in the middle order if need be and as he showed against South Africa, he can be a terrific finisher at the backend.

“He is prepared to bowl with the new ball, he is prepared to bat at No.4. It tells you he is fit, he is very clear in his mind, and the space he is in now is brilliant,” former India head coach Ravi Shastri said, who seems convinced that Hardik Pandya can be the leader in the future.

Edited by Sankalp Srivastava

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