Irfan Pathan has lauded Hardik Pandya for his all-round performance in the third ODI against New Zealand and pointed out that the Indian vice-captain brings unique attributes to the side.
Hardik first smashed 54 runs off 38 balls as the Men in Blue set a massive 386-run target for the Black Caps in Indore on Tuesday, January 24. He then dismissed Finn Allen for a duck as the hosts bowled out Tom Latham and Co. for 295 to register an emphatic 90-run win.
During a post-match discussion on Star Sports, Pathan was asked about his thoughts on Hardik Pandya's performance with both bat and ball, to which he replied:
"He is an extremely crucial player. You need a player who can both bat and bowl to get the balance. It is very difficult to find the ability that Hardik Pandya provides to the Indian team. You will find very few players like him in world cricket."
The former Indian all-rounder was all praise for some of the shots played by his fellow Baroda player, elaborating:
"He first showed his might in batting. The shots he played, the straight pull he hit - he was playing tennis on the cricket ground. It was an exceptional shot and after that also he showed his power and range in the other shots."
Pathan pointed out that Hardik, unlike the other Indian batters, did not struggle to force the pace against the old ball, observing:
"If he is in form, it is extremely difficult to stop him. The knock came at the right time and fast as well because the other batters were finding it difficult to score against the old ball, but Hardik Pandya did not have that much difficulty."
Pathan added that Hardik's half-century and his 54-run seventh-wicket partnership with Shardul Thakur were extremely crucial. He reasoned that the result might have been different had India been restricted to a score of around 330.
"He has improved the alignment" - Irfan Pathan on Hardik Pandya's bowling
Pathan praised Hardik for adding the inswinger to his repertoire, saying:
"After that the bowling with the new ball, the ability to move the ball both ways that we talk about, he has recently started inswing, earlier he used to bowl only outswing. He has improved the alignment, which he himself spoke about."
The cricketer-turned-commentator concluded by reiterating the all-rounder's importance to Team India, stating:
"He is trying to stand more upright now. The wicket he got, the seam position was straight. To get Finn Allen out, because he is a batter whose bat did not fire but he is a dangerous batter. It is extremely crucial for the Indian cricket team that he remains fit."
With Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj rested for the inconsequential final ODI against the Kiwis, Hardik was given the new ball. He got Allen to get an inside edge onto his stumps off the second ball he bowled to give India the early ascendancy during New Zealand's chase.
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