“In T20 cricket it’s important to be aggressive,” Laxman said on the eve of the T20I opening in Wellington, “and we’ve got 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 circumstances and situations, and use that experience.
“Yes, our regular top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli is not there, but the players who have been selected have played a lot of international cricket, especially T20 cricket.”
“India is lucky to have such a bank, a pool of players to choose from. I think that will be the case in the future, especially in white-ball cricket, you need specialist players. In the future you will have a lot more T20 specialists in T20s but managing their workload and choosing players from the pool we have is a boon that Indian cricket has.”
Hardik’s mature leadership, selection and decision-making under pressure earned him praise from several quarters at the time. Now there is a growing chorus in Indian cricket circles about the need to give him the T20I captaincy ahead of the next 20-over World Cup in 2024.
“He’s a fantastic leader,” Laxman said. “We’ve seen what he’s done in Gujarat in the IPL. Someone taking the lead role himself in the first year and winning the cup is no mean feat. I’ve spent time with him from the Irish series onwards. He’s not only tactically good, but also very calm on the pitch, which is very important when you play at the highest level, because there will be situations where you will be under pressure, then as a leader you have to be calm.
“But also his presence in the dressing room and his work ethic are exemplary. The way he leads the field is fantastic. He is a player’s captain; he is very approachable. All the players trust him, and that’s something I like about him as captain. He leads by example on and off the pitch.”
“It is very clear that he is one of the most talented players India has,” said Laxman. “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.”