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Pandya and Karthik 2.0: Most important cogs in India's T20 WC 2022 wheel

There are concrete reasons why the improved versions of both Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya could be the most important cogs in India's successful T20 World Cup 2022 campaign wheel

ICC T20 World Cup 2022 | Dinesh Karthik | Hardik Pandya

Abhishek Singh  |  New Delhi 

Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik of India during the 4th T20I between India and South Africa held at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot on the 17th June 2022. Photo: Sportzpics for BCCI
Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik of India during the 4th T20I between India and South Africa held at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot on the 17th June 2022. Photo: Sportzpics for BCCI

Ever since the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, when non-favourite India, led by a young but charismatic MS Dhoni, won the title, the cricket-mad nation has been vigorously but unsuccessfully searching for the World title in the shortest format.

Six world cups have gone since then, and India has never even come close to winning the tournament again, although they did make it to the final in 2014 but were beaten very quickly by Lasith Malinga-led Sri Lanka.

Every World Cup year renews many hopes, and expectations rise exponentially among the blue brigade's fans. However, India's colossal failure in the last edition had washed down the realistic chances in the upcoming T20 World Cup 2022.

The introduction of Rohit Sharma as captain, Rahul Dravid as head coach and the infusion of the word 'attacking play' in the mindset of players has made even the most critical observers of Indian cricket think twice before counting the team out from the list of top contenders in the next World Cup.

What has made the Rohit Sharma-led unit a threat to other teams and probably the strongest side to wrestle the trophy away from home side Australia is the arrival of 2.0 and Hardik Pandya's mature edition.

While Karthik is the finisher India has always wanted ever since the magic of MS Dhoni's wand started to wane out post-2016, Pandya, on the other hand, has bloomed with success as Gujarat Titans' skipper in IPL 2022 into the all-rounder India never had since Kapil Dev's era.

There are concrete reasons why these improved versions of both Karthik and Pandya could be the most important cog in India's successful T20 World Cup 2022 campaign wheel.

The nothing to lose attitude

Karthik, 37, knows that there is not much of cricket left in him now and that he has only one chance to showcase it all. The Tamil Nadu player who made his India debut way back in 2004 is fully aware that the sun has almost set on his cricketing career and, after being dropped more times than most, has the wisdom to know that he won't be getting another chance.

This knowledge of the certain and the experience of coming back from the dead makes Karthik India's knight in shining armour for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

Playing in their favourite positions

During his stint as Gujarat Titans' captain, Pandya got to bat at number four and had the opportunity to build the innings rather than having a go from the first ball itself. This showed that he could be trusted as a finisher and someone who would control the innings and make maximum use of death overs after settling down.

Similarly, is playing at his favoured position in the lower middle order and is donning a finisher's cap. His numbers in IPL, in which he scored 330 runs in 16 games at a strike rate of 183, the highest among players with more than 200 runs in their kitty, suggest that he is relishing his job. And it is a very well-known fact that players who do what they love to do are the most formidable competitors.

Bullheaded about playing the World Cup

The first and only comment that Karthik ever made this season during the IPL was that he wanted to play the 2022 T20 World Cup, and he was bullheaded about it. Very few people would know that before the start of the IPL, Karthik was in Baroda, preparing for the unorthodox shots that eventually paid results, and he was selected into the Indian team.

But even after the selection, he has not taken it easy and works hard every day to improve, showing why he deserves a chance in the World Cup side and why he will be the most motivated person to do well there.

With Pandya, the case is not of seriousness or grabbing every opportunity. It is rather about proving a point that he can bowl, bat and field at any time and any position in the game. He showed this in the recently concluded IPL, where he scored 487 runs and opened the bowling to take eight wickets.

It is this resolve that he can do anything that makes him increasingly dangerous to the opposition.

Enjoying the vibe around the team

Apart from form, resolve to do well, and bullheadedness to play the World Cup, the most crucial aspect of any team's success is the dressing room gelling together. It has been seen clearly that Rahul Dravid likes to give the players a long rope, and no player feels threatened that if they don't perform in one game, their place in the playing 11 will be in danger in the next.

Karthik and Pandya have mentioned on numerous occasions that they like the 'vibe in the dressing room' and that there is fresh energy. The fact that everybody recognises Karthik's struggles make him more confident.

Pandya's hard work has been recognised, too, as he has been given the team's reigns for the two-match T20I series against Ireland. All these things motivate the two men who will probably finish the job for India come October 2022 down under.

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First Published: Wed, June 22 2022. 14:34 IST