Hardik Pandya and the humdinger at Bengaluru

Hardik Pandya and the humdinger at Bengaluru

Submitted by Editor on Fri, 2016-03-25 16:30 While Mahender Singh Dhoni has to be commended for inspiring his boys to pull off a dramatic one-run win over Bangladesh, we need to also put Hardik Pandya’s contribution in perspective. Thrust with the responsibility to bowl the last over when Bangladesh needed 11 runs to upset India’s applecart in the ICC T20 World Cup, the sinewy 22-year-old rose to the challenge, bowling his best over of his life in only his 14th international games. Though having conceded nine runs in the first three deliveries, Pandya’s body language was positive. Bangladesh barely needed two runs from three balls to win. A single would have helped the visitors to tie the match and force the super over. While a billion Indians were a nervous wreck, Pandya stayed optimistic and cool, focused on doing what he had been asked to do by his ebullient captain. He executed all three deliveries to near perfection, luring Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah to hit well-directed full length balls to Ravindra Jadeja in the deep. The strategy been set up, he bowled the last and final bowl, short and away from Shuvagata’s flailing bat. Even as Mustafizur Rahman scampered to steal a single off a bye, Dhoni sprinted to whip off the bails, triggering wild celebrations in the stands at the M Chinnaswamy stadium. India 146 for seven. Bangladesh 145 for nine. India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, to keep its chances alive of qualifying for the semifinals. Now, a victory against Australia on Sunday is imperative. We ought to give Pandya the credit for engineering this exciting victory. Blessed with nerves of steel, confidence, temperament and skill, Pandya executed his captain’s strategy to the hilt, to emerge as Indian cricket’s latest hero. He is. Virtually unknown until his stint with Mumbai Indians, Pandya has gradually won the confidence of his peers. Sachin Tendulkar had special words about Pandya, emphasising the Baroda lad was international material at the conclusion of the last edition of the IPL. Today, he is Dhoni’s go to man. Dhoni seems to have immense confidence in Pandya’s talent. He has often elevated the youngster in the batting line up, encouraging him to produce cameos. Remarkably, Pandya has produced wickets whenever he has been entrusted with the task at the crucial junctures. His athleticism, speed and reflexes mark him out as one of the finest fielders in international cricket. Pandya could well be the all-rounder that India has been desperately searching for since Kapil Dev’s retirement in 1994. We can’t compare him to Kapil, but at least we have stumbled upon someone who has the ability, skill and confidence to do Indian cricket proud. If he stays humble and continues to steadfastly pursue his work ethics, he could well emerge as one of the finest all-rounder in international cricket. Let’s pray he does. (Joseph Hoover is a veteran cricket writer, environmentalist and a wildlife activist. He has had an illustrious career as a journalist with leading publications and is feared as well as revered for his hard hitting and upright writings.)