Shastri expects India to go 'the 2007 route' for next T20 World Cup with Hardik as captain
"He is supremely confident about his own ability - the fact that he is fully fit now makes a massive difference," Shastri says of Hardik
Ravi Shastri feels that with the next men's T20 World Cup just over a year away, Hardik Pandya will be handed the captaincy of the India team immediately.
"Everyone can qualify to play, but I think Hardik will lead," Shastri said on ESPNcricinfo's Runorder. "The next two World Cups [after the 2023 ODI World Cup] are T20 cricket. He's already [standby] captain of India [in T20Is], so he will continue unless he is not fit. I think they [the selectors] will look into a new direction. There's a lot of talent among the youth at the moment. You might have a pretty much new team; there will be some new faces if not a new team.
"There will be still plenty who played in the last T20I match that India played, but there will be some new faces because what we've seen here in this year's IPL is some refreshing young talent."
Rohit Sharma is India's designated captain across formats, but he hasn't played a T20I since the 2022 T20 World Cup. KL Rahul was his deputy at the tournament; his last T20I, too, was at the World Cup. In the meantime, India have played eight T20Is, and Hardik has led in all of them with Rohit resting. Of those eight, India have won five, lost two, and tied one.
At the last T20 World Cup, India's intent with the bat had come under scrutiny, not for the first time. In the semi-final, they scored 168, which England chased down with ten wickets and four overs to spare.
Since then, India have tried many fresh faces, with good results. And Shastri suggested "the 2007 route" for the 2024 T20 World Cup. Then, with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and some others opting out, India had named a relatively inexperienced side for the inaugural T20 World Cup, and India lifted the trophy under MS Dhoni's captaincy.
"I feel they will go the 2007 route, where they will identify talent, and Hardik will have lots of choices when it comes to the selection," Shastri said. "Because his ideas will be different; he has played the IPL as a captain of a franchise and seen a lot of the other players. He will have his inputs."
When asked if it's Hardik then who should have a conversation with the senior players about the future, Shastri said, "Obviously. Because he is the guy who is going to take the guys out on the park. Whatever he says has to be given importance and listened to."
Until IPL 2022, Hardik had no captaincy experience at the senior level. But he created a stir when he led Gujarat Titans, one of two new teams that season, to the title. This season, too, Titans are all but through to the playoffs with the last few league-stage matches to go.
The only concern with Hardik could be regarding his workload management, given he is expected to play a big role for India at the upcoming ODI World Cup as well and his struggle with injuries is well known. Shastri said it should not be an issue, given he no longer plays long-form cricket.
"It is not that he is playing three formats," Shastri said. "Everything now is separate. You have Test matches, so the moment a Test series comes, he gets a corridor of a month to rest and recuperate. He is supremely confident about his own ability. The fact that he is fully fit now makes a massive difference. Form plays an important role. When he is fit, then he is arguably one of the best T20 players in the world."
In November last year as well, Shastri had said that "there is no harm in identifying a new T20I captain, and if his name is Hardik Pandya, so be it".