Who will be the next Kapil Dev? This question has haunted at least two generations of Indian cricket fans. The great Kapil Dev who hung his boots in the early nineties remains the lone genuine all-rounder India has produced. His extraordinary feat has ensured that nobody came close to being called all-rounder even after two decades after he hung his boots.
While many burst in to the scene hoping to be his replacement none stayed the course. The closest India came to having all-rounders were Robin Singh in the mid nineties and Ravindra Jadeja recently.
Fast bowling all-rounders. none really. Ajit agarkar was considered a promising bet given his domestic outings. But came a cropper with a batting record that rivals Danny Morrison. Irfan pathan after a great start to his career lost his pace, swing, batting and eventually his place and has vanished from our collective memory, except being an instagram celebrity.
It almost sounds ominous that when someone gets compared with Kapil Dev their career heads southward.
Given Hardik’s exploits across formats recently, should we really burden him comparing himself with the legendary Kapil Dev? I say not. Atleast for the time being!
As one can see from his recent outings, Hardik is perhaps the most transformed player in the Indian team baring speedsters Umesh Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.
In the recently concluded IPL one could see glimpses of his big hitting prowess with him outshining the mighty pollard on many instances. On the bowling front, he increased his pace and added bouncers to his armoury. He was difficult to get away in the middle overs with a steadfast line and great control. He is one of the fittest cricketers around and is a great fielder too.
If he continues this performance and avoids injuries he can be a constant presence in all the three formats and given his drive. One could do well to remember his knock against Pakistan in the champions trophy final where he threatened to take away the match from them. Something Kapil Dev could have pulled off in his prime.
The current Indian team would do we well if he could match someone from the current crop of cricketers. Ben stokes the English all-rounder should be his first target.
Ben stokes has played in the English team for a little over five years and is the mainstay across all three formats now. To be a regular in all the formats and being the most value player across formats speaks volumes of his importance and the contributions he has made.
One could see a lot of similarities between him and Ben stokes. They play in similar batting positions. They both are fast bowling all-rounders. They both are aggressive stroke makers too and have oodles of self-belief.
A look at their careers so far gives us a clearer idea on their similarities.
In the seventeen ODIs Hardik has played, he has averaged an impressive batting average of 41 with a strike rate of 135. In terms of bowling he has managed to pick up 19 wickets, contributing at least one wicket a match.
In the 59 ODIs he has played , he has averaged 34 with a strike rate of 97. In terms of bowling, he has taken 50 wickets equivalent of a wicket in a match.
In lesser number of matches Hardik’s performance is a shade better than Ben stokes. It looks like if young Hardik continues to play to his potential with both the bat and ball he can do better than Ben stokes by the times he calls off his career.
And perhaps address the void left by the greatest all-rounder India has ever seen. He would have indeed emulated the The Hariyana Hurricane!