Hardik Pandya: The New Finisher

Hardik Pandya has been one of the most promising all-rounders India has had since Kapil Dev, who retired way back in 1994!

Hardik Pandya had a few spectacular performances as a finisher and as a middle-order batsman till the 2019 World Cup. But he was largely working under the shadow of MS Dhoni who retired after the 2019 World Cup. Frequent injuries at that time affected Pandya’s batting. Due to one such injury, he was declared unfit to bowl.

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But come 2020, where the Corona lockdown changed the mindset of many. Hardik had a good IPL 2020 with the bat, scoring 281 runs at an average of 35.12 and a strike-rate of 179, with one fifty.

Hardik carried his IPL form in the recently concluded limited-overs series against Australia, scoring 2 fifties in a high-scoring ODI series. He scored 90 runs off 76 balls in the first ODI at Sydney while chasing a target of 375 runs, but India fell short by 66 runs. He smacked 7 fours and 4 gigantic sixes, all towards the midwicket region, and was batting with full authority, with Shikhar Dhawan playing the role of a sheet-anchor. Together, the duo of Dhawan-Pandya had a partnership of 128 runs in 126 balls, before Dhawan lost his wicket.

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In the second ODI at Sydney, he scored 28 runs off 31 balls against the run of play, until he got dismissed. This time though, the target was even bigger; a target of 390 runs in 50 overs!

The third ODI was at Canberra, a venue which even the Australian team wasn’t very familiar about. India batted first for the first time in the series and managed to score 302 courtesy a late finish by both Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. Coming at number 6 with India reeling at 123/4, Pandya made 92* off 76 balls with 7 fours and 2 sixes and played controlled shots all over the wicket.

Hardik rotated the strike beautifully with Jadeja and also managed to get 3 runs on a couple of occasions. That showed that his stamina was better than earlier. Australia was dismissed for 289 runs, and thus India won by 13 runs.

In the 3-match ODI series, he ended up with 210 runs at a staggering batting average of 105 and a strike-rate of 114.57!

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The T20 showdown was on the cards and Hardik managed to score 16 runs off 15 balls in the first T20I at Canberra. India won by 11 runs. The second T20I was again played in Sydney and India needed to chase a target of 195 runs. India was reeling at 120/3 after 13.4 overs until Hardik came to bat. Hardik had to work hard for his initial runs by taking singles and doubles but found his mojo in the 19th over of the chase when he smashed a couple of boundaries off pacer Andrew Tye.

In the following last over, he smashed a couple of sixes off Daniel Sams’ bowling; one over long-on and one over mid-wicket. The mid-wicket six he hit was a clear reminder of MS Dhoni’s winning six in the 2011 World Cup final and similar to that, even Hardik won the match and the series for India! In the following match, he scored 20 runs trying to revive a chase before getting dismissed.

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He scored 78 runs in the T20I series at an average of 39 and at a strike-rate of 156! Such has been his batting that he might even be considered for the Indian squad of T20 World Cup 2021 as a pure batsman.

Hardik has definitely got the potential to fill in MS Dhoni’s big shoes as a finisher, and he’s got the ability to do it also on a regular basis, just like he did against Australia in Australia. He has got the right technique, right temperament and most importantly, confidence to become a good finisher for India with the bat across all formats. And once he gets to bowl, it is just another advantage he brings in.

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