Hardik Pandya not hesitant to play the big shots

There is no denying the fact that the Baroda all-rounder has impressed the MI fans; he showed guts and gumption to produce two remarkable cameos against Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune and against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium.

Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya celebrate Mumbai Indians’ victory over Kolkata Knight Riders, at the Wankhede stadium.   -  Vivek Bendre

Hardik Pandya appears to be on top of his game and has started to bring value to the Mumbai Indians’ campaign in this season’s Indian Premier League. Always a top-drawer team in the most followed Twenty20 league in the world, the MI in blue and silver stripes virtually dazzle on the field. However, some of its cricketers have taken their game to dizzying heights and set the adrenalin flowing among the fans.

There is no denying the fact that the Baroda all-rounder has impressed the MI fans; he showed guts and gumption to produce two remarkable cameos against Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune and against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday.

Rana, Hardik make it a night to remember for MI

Pandya’s 15-ball 35 blitzkrieg against RPS, that includes four lusty blows over the ropes in Ashok Dinda's last over, failed to win the game for his side as the visitor chased down the formidable target of 185 with ease. His next effort in front of a packed house at the famous venue, however, was not in vain.

Pandya hammered a 11-ball unbeaten 29 with three fours and two sixes against the Gautam Gambhir-led KKR as MI snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. The home side won by four wickets, much to the unbridled joy of the city’s famous son Sachin Tendulkar. The all-rounder was quite severe in the last two overs, going all guns blazing on seamers Ankit Rajpoot and Trent Boult. He had his slice of luck when Rishi Dhawan dropped him at deep square, but MI also dropped Steve Smith, on 36 at Pune.

Chasing KKR’s 178, MI and Pandya made a terrific winning effort, after two rank bad decisions gave the marching orders to Jos Buttler and skipper Rohit Sharma. And Pandya was in the thick of things in the end after Kieron Pollard and Rana left the scene.

In the previous two seasons, MI gave all opportunities to Pandya and the results were far from spectacular; in eight innings of the 2015 season he made only 112 runs, with an unbeaten 61 against KKR his highest at the Wankhede. In nine innings of the 2016 season he had a worse return, managing only a mere 44 runs.

While MI has given the No. 4 position to Rana, Pandya came to bat at No.7 against KKR, whose captain Gambhir credit the duo at the post-match presser. Manish Pandey, who made 81 not out with five boundaries and sixes each, said of Pandya: “Normally he finishes the game for India, that’s his role batting at No.7. Playing a lot of tournaments he has matured as a player and he is also gaining in confidence.”

Pandya has just touched 100 runs in 19 Twenty20 internationals (ten innings) for India, and his IPL record is not actually great to shout about; but somehow his attitude has received commendations and the selectors even put him in the Test match squad against England; a shoulder injury before the Rajkot Test though ruled him out of the series.