Pandya took his maiden five-wicket haul within 29 balls on the second day at Trent Bridge, breaking England’s spine as they conceded 168-run lead, which was extended to 292 by the close with India having eight wickets in hand. Pandya is now the second-highest wicket-taker for India with eight and has the best average.
Ever since Pandya smashed a 50 on debut and then made a century in his third Test during last year’s tour of Sri Lanka, the question has been asked if he can perform the role that Kapil did for India for about 15 years.
Last week, the former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding told ESPNcricinfo that Pandya is not yet completely performing his role as a bowling allrounder convincingly. Holding had heard Pandya was being compared to Kapil during the South African Test series this January. Based on his own observation Holding said Pandya was “nowhere near” Kapil and India needed to find “somebody” who could contribute more.
After his performance on Sunday, which turned the match firmly in India’s favour, Pandya said he is tired of the comparison and wants to put a stop on the talk.
“The problem with this is you compare yes, but all of a sudden something goes wrong and they are like he is not that [Kapil Dev],” Pandya said. “I have never wanted to be Kapil Dev. Let me be Hardik Pandya. I am good at being Hardik Pandya, reached here till now, I have played 40 ODIs and now 10 Test matches being Hardik Pandya, not Kapil Dev. They are great in their era. Let me be Hardik Pandya. Stop comparing me with anyone. I will be happy if you don’t.”
Talking to former England captain Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports Pandya said he does not care what the critics think. “For sure not. I will simply say one thing. Let’s not worry about me. I know what I am exactly doing. My team backs me. That’s what matters. And to be honest I don’t care what people say.”
Pandya told Sky Sports the focus of the bowling group in the second session was to bowl full. “I tried to swing the ball and if you try to swing the ball you go little full. You tend to get driven. I am not afraid of getting driven because if the wickets come runs does not matter.”
Pandya added that he did not want the batsmen to read him and one way to do that was to vary his release points, bowl from different parts of the popping crease, use the seam in different angles and create doubts in the their mind.
“I feel that if I keep on bowling the same way they might get used to it,” he said. “So I always focus on using the crease or even the line where I am bowling because it is very important, it makes a huge difference. If I go wide and I bowl the same ball the batsman thinks it is coming in with the angle, but if goes out you get the opportunity of getting him out.”
In the later press conference, Pandya revealed Ishant Sharma had jokingly told him to talk about his role in the five-for. Jokes apart, Pandya acknowledged Ishant did play a “big role”. Having played against most of the England batsmen in international and county cricket, Ishant has the knowledge of their weaknesses which he shared with Pandya.
“Ishy [Ishant] was telling me the same thing: don’t go for the wickets, if you keep bowling at the rights areas, you have the talent to get them. That’s the same thing I tell him and same thing which we tell other bowlers. Keep it tight, let’s see what they do, let’s check their patience and once again we saw the result what happens.”
Last year, in Pallekele, Pandya raised his bat to celebrate his maiden Test century. Today, in Nottingham, he flashed the ball to relish the maiden five-wicket haul. Which did he enjoy more? “I am happier with taking five-wicket haul than scoring a hundred. I have taken very few five-wicket hauls, I think this is the second of my life. and it has come at a very important place so I am very happy.”