“In T20 cricket, it’s important to be aggressive,” Laxman said on the eve of the opening T20I in Wellington, “and we have the guys who have this ability to express themselves. So that’s the message from the captain and myself: be aggressive , but also focus on conditions and situations, and use that experience.
“Yes, our regular top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli isn’t here, but the players who have been selected have played a lot of international cricket, especially T20 cricket.”
“India is lucky to have that kind of bench, a pool of players to choose from. I think that will be the case going forward, especially in white-ball cricket, you require specialist players. Going forward, in T20s you will see a lot more T20 specialists, but managing their workload and choosing players from the pool we have is a blessing Indian cricket has.”
Hardik’s mature leadership, selection and decision-making under pressure earned him plaudits from several quarters at that time. Now, there has been a growing chorus within Indian cricket circles about the need to hand him the T20I captaincy looking ahead to the next 20-over World Cup in 2024.
“He’s a fabulous leader,” Laxman said. “We’ve seen what he has done at Gujarat in the IPL. Someone taking on the leadership role in the first year itself and winning the Cup is no mean achievement. I have spent time with him from the Ireland series. He is not only tactically good but also very calm on the field. That’s very important when you’re playing at the highest level, because there will be situations where you will be under pressure. That’s when as a leader you have to be calm.
“But also, his presence in the dressing room and his work ethics are exemplary. The way he leads on the field is fabulous. He is a players’ captain; he is very approachable. All players confide in him, and that’s something I really like about him as a captain. He leads by example on and off the field.”
“It’s very clear he’s one of the most talented players India has,” Laxman said. “In the opportunities he has had at the highest level, he has shown what a class player he is. Slowly and gradually, he is becoming a very consistent performer, a match-winner. He has a great future ahead of him.”