MS Dhoni proclaims Hardik Pandya's utility in Indian playing XI
In coming years, Hardik Pandya might be remembered as one of the last gems to be uncovered for the Indian team by captain MS Dhoni, but for now it can be said with assurance that the 22-year-old has gained his captain’s trust.
At the post-match ceremony after India’s 45-run win against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, Dhoni said, “Batting fearlessly is Hardik’s strength and that’s why we want to give him more matches, he’s a good fielder too and a useful third seamer.”
The young all-rounder scored a 18-ball 31 and stitched a match winning partnership with Rohit Sharma on Wednesday. Before his arrival at the crease, India were tottering along and had not crossed the three-figure mark in 15 overs. Their attacking partnership ensured that India reached a healthy total of 166 and put up an asking rate of 8.4 runs per over.
Pandya hit four boundaries and one six, and had a strike rate of 172 – perfectly fitting the role of the finisher that the Indian limited-overs team has so desperately required in the recent past.
Pandya gives us option of an extra batsman: Dhoni
Pandya, while also bowling at a decent pace of 130+ kph, is primarily a batsman, who can bowl. The spot has not yet been sealed, but it is Pandya who has risen above Gurkeerat Mann and Rishi Dhawan, and Stuart Binny before them, to earn the captain’s trust for a place in the Indian XI.
Dhoni said, “Pandya is an overall package and we can promote him often, as that gives us the option of playing an extra batsman”.
Pandya’s List A batting average is 37 and his T20 batting average is 32. With his hitting power to boot, Pandya may be promoted above the likes of Yuvraj and Dhoni in the coming matches as well.
As proof of his credentials as the extra batsman, Pandya hammered 39 runs in an over in a Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 match for Baroda against Delhi earlier this year – the record for the most runs scored in an over in a T20 match.
Pandya, who has said he wants to play Jacques Kallis’ role for India, has already showed a big heart and a stomach for a fight – might he turn out to be Dhoni’s ‘Joginder Sharma card trick’ in the World T20 in March?