For over a decade, team India's success in white-ball cricket depended on MS Dhoni's performance. The wicket-keeper-batsman was arguably among the greatest finishers the game has ever seen.
When Dhoni decided to hang his boots, fans across the world expressed their disappointment. They would not witness their favourite batsman finish off games in the last over of a chase.
This became even more pronounced after India's first ODI loss to against Australia at the SCG. Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding lamented on how the Indian team will miss MS Dhoni. On the YouTube chat show "Holding Nothing Back," he said,
“One thing India will struggle with is the loss of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni comes into this Indian batting order halfway down and he usually takes control while chasing."
Over the years, India is lucky to have found players to replace great cricketers from one generation to another. Virat Kohli replaced Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma replaced Virender Sehwag, and the pace-bowling unit, in fact, became even stronger. Likewise, we might see the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya take over MS Dhoni's role.
Hardik Pandya was considered the perfect replacement for Kapil Dev as a premier all-rounder. He's currently unable to bowl because of an injury and is playing as a pure batsman. On this trip down under, he has proved to everyone that he is good enough to be in the team playing that role.
Hardik Pandya 2.0 - good news for Indian cricket
The upgraded version of Hardik Pandya, who plays with a lot more sense and match awareness, is a good sign for Indian cricket. He controls his emotions better, and as a result, his consistency has gone a notch higher.
This version of Pandya was on full show at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the second T20I when he took India to a 6-wicket win while chasing a mammoth 195.
Pandya did not panic for even one moment in that chase. Once the best chaser in the world, Virat Kohli was dismissed in the 17th over, he took center stage by pacing the chase to perfection. India needed 14 runs to win off the final over, but Hardik Pandya looked very calm and confident. The wiry batsman showed his range by depositing Daniel Sams over the long-on boundary to win the series in style.
The humility Hardik Pandya showed after he praised Natarajan after receiving the man of the match award was also pleasant.
“I thought Natarajan would have been Man of the Match, he gave us a target about 10 runs lower than it would have been”.
Promotion in the batting order
When Sanju Samson was dismissed in the 14th over, Shreyas Iyer was listed to come in at No 5. But it was Hardik Pandya who came out to join his skipper in the middle. The promotion in the order was clear enough suggestion on how there is a lot of faith shown in this hard-hitting right-hander.
The older Hardik Pandya would have tried to hit every ball for a maximum and could have perished in doing so, but Pandya 2.0 is different. He took the time initially to get in when Kohli was accelerating, and by the time his skipper got out, he was in the zone. Australia was not able to stop him for yet another time in this series.
Going by his current form with the bat, it may not be surprising if Hardik Pandya is retained back in Australia for the 4-match Test series starting on December 17 at the Adelaide Oval.