Rejuvenated Pandya pleased to don the 'Dhoni role'

By Real11 - Feb 2 2023 64 Views


Responsible Pandya happy to play the 'Dhoni role'

There is much more to Hardik Pandya’s game than just power hitting. At least that part of his evolution as a T20 cricketer has been on display for the good part of a year. Since taking over as the skipper of the Gujarat franchise last year and subsequently taking the baton from Rohit Sharma in the shortest format, Hardik has accepted the responsibility that comes in with being the most experienced player of the team; even if it tempers his own game for the team’s cause: as he anchored Gujarat’s middle order in their championship winning campaign in Indian T20 League 2022. 

In the series decider against New Zealand in Ahmedabad on Wednesday (February 1), the Indian skipper struck at a blistering strike rate of 176.46, but a good part of his 17 ball knock involved turning over the strike to Shubhman Gill, who smashed an unbeaten 126- the highest individual score by an Indian batter in men’s T20Is. After clinching the series, Pandya revealed that he was delighted to play the ‘Mahi role’, the one played by former Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni during his time. 

"See, to be honest, I've always enjoyed hitting sixes, but I have to evolve and that is life," Pandya said. "I have to take the other part where I've always believed in partnerships. I want to give my team and the other person more calmness and the assurance that at least I'm there. I've played more games than any of those guys out there. So, I've known the experience and more than the experience part, it's where I've batted, and I've learnt how to accept pressure and I've learnt how to kind of swallow the pressure and kind of make sure the team and everything is calm.

"In that way, maybe I have to get my strike rate down or... Taking new opportunities or taking new roles is [something] I've always looked forward to. I don't mind coming in and playing the role which somewhere down the line Mahi [Dhoni] used to play. I think at that time, I was young, and I was hitting all around the park, but now since he has gone, all of a sudden that responsibility... It has just naturally come to me, and I don't mind [doing it]. We're getting the result we want and it's okay."

The evolved and responsible version of Pandya has made his impression on the bowling front as well. With Jasprit Bumrah currently out of the squad due to injury concerns and Bhuvneshwar Kumar no longer part of this Indian side, Pandya has taken the onus on himself to bowl in the Powerplay. He pegged back the opposition with his twin strikes inside the first two overs and he went off to finish with impressive figures of 4/16. 

"I had to bowl with the new ball [in T20Is] because Arshdeep [Singh]... I don't want any new guy to come and have that difficult role of [bowling in the PowerPlay] because if they're put under pressure, then we're chasing the game," Hardik said. "So, I've always been [like] leading from the front and I've been working on my new-ball skills, which is helping me."

Pandya last played for India in Southampton four and a half years ago, before his back injury ended a promising career in the longest form of the game. However, the moment has not yet come for him to consider returning to the Test side with his all-round abilities and newly gained responsibilities.

"I will come [back] when I feel [it's] the right time to play Test-match cricket," Hardik said. "Right now, I'm going to focus on white-ball cricket, which is important, and if time is right and body is fine, I'll give [the long format] a try."

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