India in South Africa

Not quite X-Factor, but Hardik Pandya is doing enough to justify Virat Kohli’s faith

Despite failing with the bat, the all-rounder was once again impressive with the ball in the series-clinching win in Port Elizabeth.

The X-Factor.

That’s how Hardik Pandya was billed, heading into this tour of South Africa. Everyone who was asked for an opinion was saying - former cricketers, analysts, writers. Rahul Dravid said it before leaving for New Zealand with his Under-19 boys as well.

The hype, as is almost always the case with Pandya, was real.

And when the first innings of the first Test came to an end, there was a feeling that Pandya was starting to live up to it. A blistering counterattack at Newlands, saw his stocks rise once again. But since then, the great leveller that cricket is, Pandya’s tour was oscillating between ordinary and utterly forgettable. His batting has seemingly deteriorated as the tour has progressed, as evidenced by the numbers.

In Tests: 93, 1, 15, 6, 0, 4
In ODIs: 3*, 14, 19, 0

But that’s the thing about all-rounders. Well, the good ones anyway. They are never truly out of the game.

Even as he was struggling to adapt to the South African conditions with the bat - conditions that far better batsmen have failed to conquer, it’s worth remembering - he has stepped up with the white ball in his hand.

The first three ODIs where Kedar Jadhav was bowling his round-arm, below-sea-level deliveries, it did not feel like Kohli will use Pandya’s full quota of 10 overs in this series. But the injury to Jadhav opened up an opportunity for Pandya - and like good cricketers do, he has grabbed it.

Consider this: In the fourth ODI in Jo’burg, when bad weather stopped play during South Africa’s run-chase and reduced the innings to 28 overs, Virat Kohli found himself in an interesting situation, with 7.2 overs already bowled. Bhuvi and Bumrah had bowled four each & could bowl two more with three bowlers allowed to bowl six. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were going to bowl a minimum 11 between them which meant Pandya absolutely had to bowl five overs - he was the easiest target for the South African batsmen to go after.

As it turned out, Chahal and Kuldeep were taken to the cleaners and India lost the match. But Kohli gained a confident bowler in Pandya. His 1/37 kept India in the match - it helps when the solitary wicket you get is that of AB de Villiers (in the pink ODI, that too). Even in defeat, Pandya impressed under pressure.

In Port Elizabeth in the fifth ODI, he had once again failed with the bat, a first-ball-duck, no less. Kohli was once again without the services of a recognised sixth bowler. India were once again short of their expected first innings score, thanks to a late failure. The pressure was once again on Pandya to deliver with the ball and this time he had to bowl the 10 overs.

And, once again, Pandya turned in a mighty impressive spell - finishing with figures of 2/30. The icing on the cake? De Villiers’ wicket for the second match in a row.

It’s fair to say, despite Kuldeep and Chahal sharing six wickets between them, Pandya’s wicket of de Villiers and his direct hit to run Hashim Amla out by the finest of margins, were the two decisive moments in the match that handed India a famous series win. Pandya even finished the day with a one-handed reflex catch (after some poor communication with his fellow fielder) - a more-than-acceptable ending to a match that started for him with a golden duck.

Rohit Sharma touched upon Pandya’s influence specifically after the game:

“Hardik has come a long way since he made his debut. He understands now what the team expects from him. He is a proper all-rounder, not a batsman who can bowl or a bowler who can bat. But a proper all-rounder and we expect him to come out and bowl 10 overs all the time (...) Hardik, special mention to him, the way he came out and bowled, got crucial breakthroughs. It will give him confidence going forward.

Pandya is the kind of cricketer who will always have doubters. ‘He’s too flashy.’ ‘He seems too full of himself.’ ‘Next Kapil Dev? Pffft!’

But he is also the kind of cricketer who backs himself under pressure and knows an opportunity when he sees one. And, as Shaun Pollock pointed out, Pandya will get a long rope from Kohli just for that attitude.

“I clearly get the impression that Virat Kohli loves Hardik Pandya’s attitude,” said the former South African skipper and a man who knows a thing or two about being a good all-rounder. “It’s very similar to the way Kohli plays his cricket. And because he loves that attitude there is a good chance that Pandya will get a long run in the side, to settle himself and cement his spot in the team. That’s the nature of cricket if the captain likes the way a player goes about his business then that player will get an extra run (of opportunities).”

Failures will come along the way, and that’s where Pollock’s comments are crucial - Pandya has a captain who evidently backs him to the hilt. That is why, when Jadhav got injured, he trusted his all-rounder enough to not bring in another bowling option.

And with the ball in his hand, it was not Pandya being his flashy self. This was not him creaming bowlers out of the ground. This was no counter-attacking masterclass that will be remembered for a long time.

This was just a bowler turning up for his captain and doing the job asked of him - hitting the right lengths, bowling the cutters, keeping things tight.

This was, the man with the X-Factor, doing the ABCs right.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.