Hardik Pandya, the Indian all-rounder, has had his share of critics. But in the third Test against England at Trent Bridge, he had an emphatic answer to all of them with a maiden five-wicket haul.
Until this match, Pandya, 24, had 10 wickets in nine Tests, raising questions on India’s insistence on using him as a third seamer in pace-friendly conditions.
He took 3/66, career-best figures then, in the second Test at Lord’s, but in a match where James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad made the ball dance and had the Indian batting on their knees, it wasn’t enough to quieten talk that Pandya, who averages 32.71 with the bat, wasn’t in same league as his England counterparts and affected the balance of the side.
On Sunday, 19 August, the second day of the Trent Bridge Test, however, he blew away the England batting in a spell of great control and swing. Over 29 balls, he picked up his maiden five-wicket haul – the second-quickest five-for by an Indian.
The 5/28 he finished with must have silenced the doubters, but Pandya wasn’t thinking about that.
“First of all, I don’t play for them (critics),” he insisted after the day’s play. “They are getting paid for saying things which I don’t even want to know [about] and I don’t even care.
“I play for my country. I don’t care what they say. It’s their job to say it and it’s my job to play for my country. I’m doing the right thing. My team is happy with me. Nothing else matters.”
India has been on the lookout for a pace-bowling all-rounder since the glory days of Kapil Dev, who led them to glory at the 1983 World Cup. Pandya has often been compared with the legend, but he wanted a stop on that as well.
"The problem with this [comparison] is you compare, yes, but all of a sudden something goes wrong and they are like ‘he is not that’ [like Kapil Dev]," Pandya said. "I have never wanted to be Kapil Dev. Let me be Hardik Pandya.
It’s the crictics' job to say it and it’s my job to play for my country. My team is happy with me. Nothing else matters.
“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."
Pandya, who made a hundred earlier in his career against Sri Lanka, rated his wickets, which came “at a very important place” as something that made him happier than his century.
He credited Ishant Sharma, who was seen constantly by his side on the field, for keeping his focus and improving his game.
“Ishy 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 the wickets. 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 we saw the result what happens."
India, trailing 2-0 in the series, resume the third day on 124/2, a lead of 292 runs.