On an eventful day in 266BC, Antigonus II Gonatus and his vast forces advanced to lay siege on the city of Megara which was grossly unprepared to face the giant hordes of men and the even more powerful and feared war elephants. The Megarians had to make do with what best they had. They coated several boars in resin and set them ablaze which ran straight into the elephant ranks causing them to frighten and break formation, trampling its own troops and costing them the battle.
Just a few centuries down the line, on a likewise eventful day, India saw a Kapil Dev tear through a then strong Zimbabwean lineup helping him to a 175 off 138 deliveries- a rendition that is mind-boggling even in the present era of swashbuckling batsmen and shrinking boundaries. Indian cricket transfigured having won the World Cup (Prudential Cup as it was then called) and also produced an out of the all world all-rounder, only for the nation to fail to replicate either of these feats for decades to come.
A pace all-rounder has gone onto become a vital component in any lineup across formats. The 2017 IPL auction saw RPS splurge INR 14.5 crores on English all-rounder and eventual MVP Ben Stokes. The franchise top brass felt he was the “One class of hero who was lacking in the existing list of heroes” that they had. In many ways, the sentiments reflected by RPS are that of Indian Cricket itself. As the entire world is galvanizing to these heroes, India quietly unleashes its own version of the Megarian’s boars- spin all-rounders.
That the younger of the Pandya brothers walked out in whites in Galle in the recently concluded Sri Lanka tour is heartening and we most certainly have reposed confidence in the 23-year-oldand the pedigree he represents. The excitement, though, is not new to us. We felt it when a 19-year-old Irfan Pathan debuted for India in the sensational Adelaide test; when a certain Stuart Binny dismantled a hapless Bangladesh claiming 6 wickets, we celebrated in exultation believing our moment had come- they were finally here.
Hardik Pandya shows great promise as an all rounder
A lot of conditions contribute to this scenario. The reason India wields four spin all-rounders is the same reason why Australia wields four pace all-rounders- home conditions. To be a fast bowler in India is an arduous assignment that milks everything a player has to offer, and to add batting to that CV is not easy. Being predominantly in favor of spin bowling, the bowling lineup is also centered on spinners, at least 2 of whom are bound to play if not more. This means that in the new age of 4 + 1 bowling amalgam, the fifth bowler slot is most likely reserved for a spinner who can bat or a full-time bowler, the other two slots being allocated to full time pacers. Also throw in the overabundance of spin all-rounders in the form of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja,Yuvraj Singh, Akshar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Pervez Rasool, Karn Sharma, Krunal Pandya, Gurkheerath Singh Mann and the playing eleven chooses itself.
India has also very smartly made up for this deficit. An exceptionally strong batting order at the start of the twentieth century allowed for that little breathing space down the order. It allowed Ajith Agarkar to sit tight as the pace all-rounder. Things got a lot better as this Ranchi based gloveman laid to rest India’s search for a wicket-keeper who could bat. The iconic ‘Number 7’ position saw the world’s greatest finisher make up for the lack of an all-rounder as very seldom did the load go below his position. And as years passed by, India flirted with Robin Singh, Sanjay Bangar, Reetinder Sodhi, JP Yadav, Stuart Binny and so on, only for it to be scotched.So, itcomes as little surprise that Nitin, Sriram and Adithi from our blog team felt the pinch hitter in Pat Cummins and part-time bowler in Lendl Simmons to be of that race of international all-rounders.
Today, 23 years after Kapil Dev, one cannot neglect that India has parried too long. On the green pacey wickets offered outside the subcontinent, most of India’s counter measures are jettisoned as it somehow revolves around spin. The effect Pandya had in the 2016 T20 World Cup and 2017 Champions Trophy cannot be ignored and the dire need for such a player in the 2015 World Cup was there for the world to see. What is disheartening is that beyond Pandya, Binny and perhaps Rishi Dhawan are the only names that make up the bench. It remains to be seen what is to become of the SRH duo of Vijay Shankar and Ashish Reddy alongside the hopeful revival of veteran Irfan Pathan.
Rishi Dhawan and Stuart Binny are all rounders in the domestic radar
With the likes of Ben Stokes, Vernon Philander, Angelo Mathews, Andre Russel and many more such players beguiling cricket fanatics the world over with their larger-than-life mantle alongside the inscriptions of legends such as Jacques Kallis, this an exciting prospect for India. So, as Hardik Pandya walked in to bat and later sent down overs at our island neighbors, India was once again reminiscent of a bygone era and a world cup winning captain who belonged to an elite pedigree. Along with it germinates belief just as always for decades, our moment has come…they are finally here.
Cricaddict and foodie