Former Australia captain Steve Waugh foresees Hardik Pandya dominating the ongoing World Cup the way South African Lance Klusener did in the 1999 edition as he feels the Indian all-rounder’s clean-hitting is something that no opposing skipper can deal with. Pandya stroked his way to a 27-ball 48 at The Oval to help India post an imposing 352 for 5 against Australia on Sunday. India then bowled Australia out for 316 for a 36-run win. “…it’s the innings of Hardik Pandya that will send shivers down opposition spines. This guy might just be the equivalent of Lance Klusener in the 1999 World Cup. He has the ability to begin his innings like most finish, with clean hitting that no opposing captain can protect,” Waugh wrote in his column for the ICC’s official website.
The damaging stroke play by Pandya, who hit four fours and three sixes, reminded Waugh of Klusener’s fireworks in the 1999 World Cup. Klusener was player of the tournament 20 years ago in England for his destructive lower-order hitting that netted 281 runs at a strike rate of 122.17, a phenomenal tally in the pre-T20 days of 1999. The left-hander’s exploits powered South Africa to within one run of making the final at Lord’s, but a frantic run out on the semi-final at Edgbaston resulted in Waugh’s Australia securing a famous tie.
Australia went on to win the World Cup title by outclassing Pakistan in the final. “When they (India) get off to solid opening partnership, as they did against Australia, they then have the luxury of seeing Virat Kohli orchestrate the remainder of the innings,” Waugh wrote. Praising veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni who hit a 14-ball 27, Waugh said: “The cunning and sheer brilliance of MS Dhoni rarely fails to deliver and again he timed his assault on Australia to post a 350 plus target. “Australia will be disappointed that they missed some crucial chances in the field and their bowling was at times loose and not as disciplined as expected.”
Chasing an imposing total, the Australians would have required a solid platform before launching an all-out assault in the last 15 overs. “Australia were never quite on track to create history with David Warner and to a lesser extent Steve Smith struggling for their usual rhythm and control at the crease,” said Waugh, one of the most successful captains of all time. “To win against the odds everything must fall into place and the turning point came early in the innings with the run out of Aaron Finch who looked in imperious touch and looked set for a big hundred,” he said.
Despite the loss, Waugh said Australia can still feature in the semi-finals as one of half a dozen sides who have a shot at winning the tournament. “India will walk away from this match full of confidence as most of their key players did exactly what needed to be done under extreme pressure and their game plan was executed perfectly,” Waugh wrote. “Australia won’t be too disappointed as they have time to dissect this loss, fine-tune their process, tinker with batting orders and bowling options and manoeuvre things around before the semi-finals come around.”
Waugh feels this World Cup is still wide open with up to six teams in the fray to lift the Cup at Lord’s.