With the Champions Trophy less than eight months away in England & Wales, Indian limited-overs skipper MS Dhoni has backed all-rounder Hardik Pandya to be a key component of their bowling attack for the tournament.
After representing his country in as many as 16 T20Is, Pandya finally got an opportunity to experience the 50-overs format at the international level and made an instant impression with a noteworthy spell which fetched him the Player of the Match award in India’s emphatic six-wicket victory during the first ODI against New Zealand at the scenic HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala.
Speaking to reporters at the post-match presentation, Dhoni lauded the 23-year old’s sharp pace and ability to extract considerable movement with the new-ball as evidenced by his 3-31 from seven overs on a surface which provided assistance for the seamers.
When asked about the thought process behind giving Pandya the new ball alongside Umesh Yadav, the veteran revealed, “Our thinking was to use him as one of the three seamers and to give him a chance to exploit the new ball. The reason being we all felt he is quite deceptive. He can bowl quick. He has got movement and can swing the ball even on wickets where some other bowlers don’t get that kind of swing. He is somebody who can get some purchase of the wicket.”
Dhoni added, “We wanted to give him a go with the new ball. We just have 8 games (5 against New Zealand and 3 against England early next year) before Champions Trophy. So, we would like to see how he reacts under different conditions and situations. How quickly he can adapt to the conditions. If he keeps on performing like what he did today, I don’t see why we won’t pick him as the first of the three fast bowlers.”
Packed home season provides rest for players
Due to a packed home season with still 10 Tests in the offing as well, the selectors opted to rest mainstay Mohammed Shami while Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s injury also ruled him out of the first three ODIs in this series. With the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja getting a breather as well, the bowling attack seemed short on experience and menace.
However, Pandya and Yadav dented New Zealand’s batting lineup by making use of the new ball on the bouncy pitch. At one stage, the visitors were even reduced to 65/7 before opener Tom Latham rallied hard alongside the lower order to take them to 190. But, the target was not anywhere near enough as Virat Kohli ensured that India aced the chase to go 1-0 up in the series.
Even though giving the new ball to Pandya ahead of a regular option such as Jasprit Bumrah had considerable risk attached to it, Dhoni’s decision turned out to be a smart one. The 35-year old explained, “Also, Bumrah is very good in the middle overs where he can give me wickets and also at the death. So if I can save his overs, I can use him at any point of time.”
The second ODI between the two teams will be held at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Thursday.