Transformed Pandya keeps it simple

All-rounder proves his worth even after being promoted to bat at No. 4

Over the last year, Pandya has proven that not only has he believed in his ability but also lived up to the faith showed in him by the team management.   -  AP

 

“Believe”.

The seven-letter word is inscribed on Hardik Pandya's left forearm. When the Baroda all-rounder unveiled the tattoo to his fans through his social media account over a year ago, some of the connoisseurs were sceptical whether it was another attempt of the young all-rounder — often perceived to to be flashy — to seek attention.

However, over the last year, Pandya has proven that not only has he believed in his ability but also lived up to the faith showed in him by the team management. No wonder then that when Pandya, a fortnight shy of turning 24, sat down to interact with the media soon after pocketing yet another man-of-the-match award after leading India's run chase in the third ODI against Australia, he was simply oozing confidence in each of his replies. The tattoo stood out as well.

READ: Indians pocket sixth straight bilateral series with an easy chase

Moments earlier, during the post-match presentation, captain Virat Kohli had credited coach Ravi Shastri for promoting Pandya to No. 4 for countering the spin of Ashton Agar. For the second time in a week, albeit in contrasting situations, Pandya tormented an Aussie spinner with his ability to heave the ball into the stands.

If it was leg-spinner Adam Zampa who bore the brunt during Pandya's rescue act of 66-ball 83 while walking in to bat at 87 for five in the first match in Chennai, he took Agar to cleaners on Sunday after walking in to bat exactly halfway into the chase of 294 after the set openers had perished in quick succession.

Pandya in ODIs

Position

Innings

Runs

Average

S/R

HS

4

3

101

33.67

106.32

78

5

1

20

-

333.33

20*

6

1

9

9.00

180.00

9

7

8

314

52.33

126.61

83

8

2

45

22.50

100.00

36

Overall

15

489

40.75

122.56

83

“It's not just about hitting. It's pretty important that I read the game. That time (in Chennai) I thought that Zampa was bowling and I knew that I could hit a six off him any time I wanted to,” he said, as a matter of fact. “That's why I waited till (Zampa's) seventh over and then I got the opportunity to change the momentum. I tried and it came out pretty well. That's just my thinking. It's about being positive and backing yourself and if I feel like it, I go for it. I read the situation and go for it.”

That he is a clean hitter of the cricket ball was widely evident when this correspondent watched him dismantle Mumbai's bowling attack, led by a certain Zaheer Khan, scoring an unbeaten 57-ball 82 in a zonal Twenty20 league match early in 2014. Incidentally, even John Wright, the former India coach and a talent scout for Mumbai Indians, was also in attendance for the match and it didn't come as a surprise that Pandya was signed up for his base price of Rs. 10 lakh in the auction a few weeks later.

Pandya’s no-ball dismissal triggers confusion

Since then, Pandya has seen an upward curve, a loss of form and a place in India's squad, all in a short span of time. However, ever since he toured Australia as part of the India ‘A’ squad last year under the watchful eyes of coach Rahul Dravid, Pandya has emerged as a reliable all-rounder who could bail the team out with his strokeplay and consistent pace bowling from any situation.

PANDYA FACTS
  • 1 - Pandya's 72-ball 78 was the first time he faced more than 70 balls in his ODI career, eclipsing his 66-ball 83 against Australia in Chennai on September 15
  • 2 - Number of MoM Pandya has pocketed in the ongoing series, in the first ODI in Chennai and on Sunday in Indore
  • 3 - Number of times Pandya has batted at No. 4 in ODIs. On the previous two occasions, he scored 4 (vs West Indies on June 25) and 19 (vs Sri Lanka on August 31)

On Sunday night, he was offered his third opportunity to bat at the key position of No. 4 for his team. And after faltering in the first two outings – in West Indies in June and against Sri Lanka last month – he grasped the opportunity with both hands.

Indian cricket’s ‘Kung Fu Pandya’

When asked about the challenges of being a part of a flexible middle-order, Pandya preferred to keep it simple. “Rather than seeing this as a challenge, I see this as an opportunity to do something nice for the team. When I was told I was going to go out to bat next, I was happy. This is the first time I played so many balls, so it was great,” he said.