Hardik Pandya came into the team because of his X-factor, says Rahul Dravid

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Hardik Pandya came into the team because of his X-factor, says Rahul Dravid

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SportsCafe Desk


Rahul Dravid believes that Hardik Pandya has put in some splendid performances in the domestic circuit that led to his success with the national side since his debut in 2016. The India Under-19 coach has also added that a fast bowling all-rounder such as Pandya is a rare sight in the Indian cricket.

Pandya has featured in 36 of the 39 matches India has played - across formats - since the start of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. In fact, since being fast-tracked to international cricket nearly two years ago, Pandya has played 27 T20Is, 32 ODIs and three Tests. Hardik's particular liking for power-hitting was spotted four years ago when he was 19 and hit Irfan Pathan for 22 in an over in a practice game. That attacking instinct coupled with useful bowling display helped him become India's go-to man. However, he has always divided opinions and people believe that he was taken in the team much earlier than usual. But Dravid doesn't think so.  

"Hardik came into the team because of himself. He is the one who has put in the performances and he is the one who has that x-factor. When you are a fast bowling all-rounder in India, there aren't many to compete with and that's the reality," Dravid told reporters at the pre-departure press conference for the Under-19 World Cup team.

Under-19 coach Dravid suggested that the scarcity of a fast bowling all-rounder is what paved the way for Pandya to dazzle with the blue brigade and insisted that the selectors have always been on the prowl for such a talent. But he maintains that Pandya deserves credit for making most of the chances that came along his way and proving his worth on the global stage with some mesmerising performances with ball and bat.

"I can go back to the earlier selection committee when I first took over the India A job. I remember in Madras, even from that time, this thought was there that we need to identify fast-bowling all-rounder in future, Vijay Shankar, Stuart Binny played that role. Hardik got that opportunity when Vijay got injured and didn't come to Australia and he (Hardik) grabbed it with both hands. He bowled quick and batted beautifully, in a particularly Testing match, when the team was 40-6 and got 70, and credit to it he has grabbed it."

With Rahul Dravid at the helm of the affairs, Mumbai batsman Prithvi Shaw will lead India at the Under-19 World Cup to be held in New Zealand from January 13. Seven of the 15 players in the squad have experience of playing Ranji Trophy. Shaw, who is Mumbai's second-highest scorer this season with 521 runs at 57.88, and Bengal's Ishan Porel, who has bagged 10 wickets in two matches, were permitted to play for their respective sides in the quarter-finals starting December 7 and will join the camp on December 12. And Dravid believes that the experience of playing cricket at the first-class level will keep the guys in good stead. 

"It's great to have players who have played at some level - either first-class or List A. It's always nice to have that. In the last team as well, there were six or seven guys who had first class or List A experience. It generally happens. It's always nice to have players who have played at a slightly higher level. It's always nice to take players with that experience to play in conditions that are probably going to be slightly different for us. It's nice to see the boys that have gone on and played at that level.

"I think the conditions are going to be an exciting challenge. I don't think any of our boys have played in such conditions. We did a camp in Bangalore and tried to replicate as much as we can. But you can never really replicate that because it is slightly unique. I've played there before and things like the wind and stuff are quite unique to any other part of the world. It's an exciting challenge for these boys to experience that and learn from that. We see that not so much as a challenge but as an opportunity. There's always the pressure of expectations from everyone. They have their own pressure of expectation as well. But it's a great opportunity to grow and learn as players," the legendary batsman added. 

Among the country’s many upcoming talents, the name of Prithvi Shaw usually comes up right at the top. The Mumbai lad’s performances in junior cricket had many experts sit up and take notice. While he is having the exprience of playing Ranji Trophy, that will help him while taking on the oppositions in the world cup.

Speaking at the same conference, Shaw said, "Ranji Trophy is a huge experience for any youngster, all the more when you have scored some runs. That will come in very handy. It will be quite different at the same time, because you play against these boys a lot more. Things would be quite different at the international level though. Batting wise, in terms of tactics and strategies too, there are a lot of India players too who play Ranji Trophy with us, so all that experience will help a lot."

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