SK Player of the Day: Chennai screams for Dhoni, but Pandya steals the show
From the day he decided to not bat higher up the order, MS Dhoni began to adopt a role that not many players in the previous era had succeeded in, which was to come out to bat at the Number 6 or 7 spot, absorb the pressure and get the team out of a hole.
For close to 10 years, the Ranchi-born cricketer found no parallel to him in the Indian setup who could do the job as well as he could.
But for everything in life, there is a sell-by date and that proved to be the case with Dhoni as well, as the consistency levels to play the role as well as he did, began to take a dip.
It reached a level, where the management began to ponder over options, as to who can deliver more regularly at the position.
Kedar Jadhav was tried in the series against England and he did a splendid job, scoring a century at Pune and almost pulling off a win in the third ODI at Kolkata.
On Sunday, in the first ODI against Australia, Indian tested Hardik Pandya for the role and what a decision it proved to be.
Walking into bat at 87 for 5 to resurrect the innings along with Dhoni, the Baroda cricketer made 83 runs off 66 balls in a partnership of 118 runs with the senior partner, to bail India out of trouble and eventually help them reach a competitive score of 281 for 7.
The striking aspect of the effort from Pandya was the five sixes he tonked into the stands, three of which were hit consecutively off Adam Zampa.
The key aspect about those hits was that they were no slogs. They were clean strikes which cleared the fence with ease and along with the ability to present a full face of the bat, it showed that he had a great eye, to judge the ball and deposit it over the stands.
If you were to take the human body, you have three elements in it- the skeleton, the blood in the middle and the skin on top.
If Dhoni was the skeleton, going unnoticed in the centre, Pandya was the blood, who provided a much-needed life to the Indian innings.
The fans at Chepauk had expected a Virat Kohli-show, like they had witnessed when India played South Africa in 2015, but dare I say, they wouldn't have minded a batting display like this, had they been asked prior to the start of the game.
Pandya, then, returned with the ball and bagged two of the most important Aussie wickets, that of Steve Smith and Travis Head to cap off a perfect day on the field.
Hopefully, this is the first of many more in the career of Pandya!