Pandya thriving on self-belief

Pandya thriving on self-belief

The Baroda all-rounder's aggression infused fresh life into Indian innings

Pandya thriving on self-belief

Hardik Pandya goes bang-bang with the bat irrespective of the format and the situation and he doesn't hold back himself either when he bowls his medium-pacers.

For someone as explosive a cricketer as him, Pandya strangely brings a sense of calmness to the dressing room. The instances are mainly with the bat but occasionally he has made a big difference with the ball as well.

The most memorable of his outing came against Australia in the Chennai ODI with India reeling at 87 for five in the first of the five-match series. It was a needle series and it was crucial that India made a winning start for more than one reason. While MS Dhoni played a handy role with an 88-ball 79, it was Pandya's blistering innings (66-ball 83) that dispirited the Aussies. Later, he picked up two wickets with his fast-medium to walk away with the man of the match award.

The remark by Chief of Selectors MSK Prasad that Pandya had the ability to fill in the big shoes of the legendary Kapil Dev when the Baroda man was only three Tests old may have drawn some flak for the outlandish nature of the comparison but there is little doubt that since the retirement of Kapil, no fast-bowling all-rounder has shown as much promise as Pandya.

His performance in the opening Test here (93 runs and three wickets so far) drives home the point.

"I think everyone (in the dressing room) did believe that he can play such an innings," said Cheteshwar Pujara. "And once he played that, the atmosphere in the dressing room was quite positive because those runs were very important for the team, they kept us in the game. If he hadn't scored those runs, we would have been in trouble. So, I think he kept us in the game and got us two wickets also at the end of day's play. So, his performance was outstanding," he remarked. Pandya's USP is his fearlessness. He backs his instincts and has immense belief in his ability. It works sometimes and it doesn't on other times but that's what you expect from an all-rounder who bats in the lower middle-order and works as an effective fourth seamer, someone who doesn't let the pressure go off the rival batsmen.

He isn't technically the most well-equipped batsman to tackle seam and swing nor is he too convincing against the well-directed short ball. What he does have though is a lot of heart – the determination to fight it out in the middle, the desire to prove against the best. The team management too should be given credit for the way he has shaped up. They have nurtured him keeping him away from inconsequential engagements and have given him the license to play his natural game.        

The situation on Saturday was tailor-made for Pandya who could just go there and express himself without any inhibition. Against a hostile attack on a difficult pitch, he couldn't have survived if he had batted for time. The counter-attack that he adopted worked wonders for both India and himself.

"Well, he had the license to do that," said former West Indies paceman Michael Holding, who is on the TV commentary panel here. "I don't think anyone batting in the first four would have thought that they could venture to do what he did.

"When you are batting at the number at which he bats, you can do things like that because you pretty much have a license to do things like that. And that is what the innings needed -- they needed someone to be as aggressive as he possibly could and try and take the attack to the bowlers. You saw what AB de Villiers did when he got out there. I don't think Pandya has his kind of ability, but at least he tried to be more positive and it worked," he offered.

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