Former India left-arm fast-bowler Zaheer Khan showered praise on Hardik Pandya for his all-round versatility, calling him as an ideal impact player. Pandya burst on the scene in IPL 2015 when he shined for Mumbai Indians in their title-winning run.
After taking three more trophies with the side, Pandya then went on to lead the Gujarat Titans to their maiden IPL title in their debut season last year. Now with Gujarat set to begin their title defence against Chennai Super Kings at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday, Pandya will again emerge as a key player for his team.
"If you talk about an impact player, Hardik is the ideal impact player. In the situation where he bats, at number five or six, it is not easy, especially in this format where you have to use the last three or four overs to bat at a particular strike rate, while facing ten to twelve deliveries."
"That's his specialty. His hand speed is exceptional and for a batter to have that hand speed and catch the ball, very few players can actually do that. Even when bowling, he can bowl at any phase, he is an all-phase bowler which is an asset," Zaheer was quoted as saying by Sports18.
Zaheer also hailed Pandya's ability to be an intelligent captain who takes advice from experienced people around him, citing his relationship with Gujarat head coach Ashish Nehra. "If you look at the previous IPL, what we saw was that Hardik had never captained before.
That was an advantage for Ashish Nehra as well because when you haven't been a captain before, you want to learn the most about it. That's why Nehra and Pandya's partnership emerged as the Jodi No. 1 last season," he added.
Former India leg-spinner Anil Kumble termed Pandya as a complete package player. "For a fast bowler to be bowling at that pace and then coming in and batting in whichever situation, we have seen that with Mumbai Indians, he did the finisher's role but last year we saw a different Hardik Pandya, the captain play a different role for Gujarat.
In that sense, he's the complete package you'd expect from a player." Kumble, who was Punjab Kings head coach till last year's IPL, touched upon the crucial facets of captaincy that Pandya has imbibed from MS Dhoni.
"He reads the game really well, just like MS Dhoni. You can see that in the way he bats and bowls, and also manages his bowling resources.