Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra was delighted to see an all-round display from Hardik Pandya in India's first T20I against England on Thursday (July 7). The 28-year-old smashed a half-century and also picked up four wickets to help India thump the hosts by 50 runs at Southampton.
Pandya seems to be relishing his new role at No. 5 and proved that he had the game to anchor the innings as well as go big at the death. His 51 runs came off just 33 balls and helped India get close to the 200-run mark.
Pandya also came back with the ball to pick up four crucial wickets while conceding 33 runs in his four overs. Speaking in a video on his YouTube channel, Aakash Chopra explained why a fully-fit Hardik Pandya is extremely important to the Indian team. He said:
"Although England bowled well towards the end, what about Hardik Pandya? The way he batted, 51 in just 33 balls, was incredible. His team continues to look up to him and he has become, according to me, the most valuable T20 player in India. He also picked up four wickets of the likes of Dawid Malan, Jason Roy, Liam Livingstone & Sam Curran."
Aakash Chopra on Deepak Hooda and Suryakumar Yadav's cameos
The Indian batting order for the first T20I had Deepak Hooda at No. 3 and Suryakumar Yadav at No. 4. Captain Rohit Sharma got off to a brisk start, but once again failed to convert it into a big score, perishing for 24.
However, Hooda ensured that he kept the momentum going in India's favor and played a quickfire cameo of 33 off 17 balls. Aakash Chopra was impressed by his selfless knock. He feels the selectors will have a genuine headache when the likes of Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant return for the second T20I.
"Deepak Hooda came to the crease when Rohit was dismissed, but he attacked without thinking about his place when Virat Kohli comes back into the side in the next game."
Aakash Chopra continued:
"Hooda is constantly asking questions like 'What will you (selectors) do with me when Kohli, Pant, [KL] Rahul etc. come back?' It is going to be tough because in the chances that Hooda has got, you can't do better than this. But that's Kohli's number, right? So what's going to happen?"
Aakash Chopra also hailed Suryakumar Yadav, who scored 39 off just 19 balls, for playing yet another impactful cameo for India in T20Is. He added:
"One can argue that Suryakumar Yadav is perhaps better suited to the No.3 position. In T20 cricket, if you play for your milestones then you are damaging your team's chances. Suryakumar Yadav's approach was refreshing and worth watching."
It will be interesting to see if India make any changes to their XI when Kohli and Pant become available for the last two T20Is.
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