Changing Hardik Pandya is excited to take on "the Dhoni role"
Hardik Pandya is more than just a rambunctious six-hitter. At least that aspect of his development as a T20 cricket player has been visible for more than a year. Since becoming the Gujarat Titans' captain last year and filling in for Rohit Sharma in the shorter format, Hardik has accepted the responsibility that comes with being the team's most seasoned player, even if it means having to temper his own game for the team's benefit, as he did when he served as the middle-order anchor for the Titans during their title-winning IPL 2022 campaign.
Pandya had a strike rate of 176.46 in the series-deciding game against New Zealand on February 1 in Ahmedabad, but much of his 17-ball innings was giving up the strike to Shubman Gill, who smashed his way to 126* off 63 – the greatest individual score by an Indian hitter in men's T20Is. After the series win, Pandya said he was glad to take on the "Mahi position," which MS Dhoni had taken on in his later years with the white-ball squad.
Since I've always enjoyed hitting sixes, Pandya remarked, "See, I have to evolve because that is life. "I must take the opposite section where I've always favored partnerships. I want to instill greater composure and the knowledge that at least I'm there in the other person and my team. I've participated in more games than any of those other guys. As a result, I have experience, but more than experience, it is from my time as a batter that I have learned how to deal with pressure, how to sort of swallow the pressure, and how to generally keep the team and everything else in check.
"In that case, perhaps I should decrease my strike rate or... I have always looked forward to accepting new possibilities or responsibilities. I don't mind filling the role that Mahi [Dhoni] used to play at some point in the past. I believe I was inexperienced and hitting everywhere in the park at the time, but since he passed away, that obligation has suddenly become mine. I just naturally thought of doing it, and I don't mind. It's okay since we're receiving the outcome we wanted."
The updated, more responsible Pandya has left his imprint on the bowling scene as well. Pandya has backed himself to bowl in the PowerPlay because Bhuvneshwar Kumar is no longer in the team and Jasprit Bumrah is currently out due to injury. The Indian captain went on to end with statistics of 4 for 16, which helped him win the player of the series award, effectively shutting the door on New Zealand. He took the wickets of Finn Allen and Glenn Phillips in the first two overs.
I don't want any new player to come in and have that difficult position of [bowling in the PowerPlay] because if they are put under pressure, then we are chasing the game, Hardik added. "I had to bowl with the new ball [in T20Is] because Arshdeep [Singh]... Therefore, I've always taken the initiative and worked on developing my new-ball skills, which has aided me.
Pandya last wore the India whites in Southampton around four and a half years ago, at which point his back ended a still-developing career in the longest form of the game. However, the time has not yet come to consider returning his all-around abilities and the newly acquired responsibilities to the Test side.
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Clinical India destroys New Zealand to win the series