Can Hardik Pandya replace MSD as India’s finisher?

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Hardik Pandya
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Hardik Pandya seems to be the man on the mission in Australia.

Topping the batting charts in the ODI series with two nineties at No. 6, Pandya played another pivotal knock as he powered India to a T20 series win with a blistering knock in Sydney on Sunday.

So what has changed in the life and mind of the most flamboyant personalities of Indian cricket? He always had the skill and potential, now he’s transforming that in match-winning performances on a more regular basis.

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So on the account of his knock, is Hardik Pandya the best possible solution to fill in the void of MS Dhoni in the finishers’ role in white-ball cricket?

It’s no secret that Pandya continues to draw inspiration from West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard and former Indian captain MS Dhoni. Given that Dhoni made the finishers’ role his own and redefined it in many ways, Pandya would do well to fill in the slot.

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But after Sunday, there would be little debate that the Mumbai Indians all-rounder has it in him to stamp his authority on that crucial position in limited-overs cricket.

He was in phenomenal hitting form in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 as he shone in the finisher’s role for Mumbai Indians who went on to win their 5th title. The MI star believes there is more pressure at the international level and he is happy that he is able to deliver consistently for the senior national team.

Man in form: Hardik Pandya (R) propelled India to another win in Australia.

Hardik Pandya the finisher

The Indian Premier League over the years has showcased Hardik Pandya’s explosive batting style. But what has changed in Australia is that the 27-year old has shown the world that he can play in a more sedate manner and play to the situation rather than just blasting his way in the match. What that has done is, it has opened up new avenues for Pandya, who bid his time on Sunday before unleashing two towering sixes to clinch the match for India. The mercurial talent now realises that this is the time to establish in the finishing role and play match-winning knocks.

He clearly has worked on the mentality to allow himself to settle in the game and assess the situation in a more clinical manner.

India at one point needed 75 runs off just 38 balls to win the match. That’s when Hardik Pandya came to the crease and flipped the match on its head.

But it didn’t even look like he was trying to hit the ball too hard. His sense of timing is uncanny and he also has the knack of picking the right ball.

But on Sunday, he was going hard at the ball but getting no distance on it. Pandya isn’t a cute player. The dinks and nudges are not for him and neither are the scoops or reverse hits. He backs himself to clear the boundary lines with authoritative hits, much like his MI teammate Kieron Pollard.

Now, on a broader spectrum-considering the next T20 world cup being in India, obviously, the IPL being in India, the next 50-over World Cup is in India in 2023, Hardik Pandya has got a great opportunity to stamp his authority on this team.

Hardik Pandya the all-rounder

In him, after a long time, the Indian cricket team have a world-class all-rounder who can compete with the other top all-rounders in world cricket. Pandya’s all-round skills gave the Men in Blue a much-needed sixth bowling option, which allowed Virat Kohli to play an extra batsman in the playing XI in the last few years. However, Hardik injured his back during the Asia Cup 2018 and hasn’t bowled much since then.

It really was a case of now or never and this is where Pandya’s immense belief in himself came through. He made the next ten balls he faced count. The Baroda all-rounder, who had a tough-2019 citing various injuries said he had worked on gaining mastery over “finishing games when it mattered the most”.

While Hardik would be itching to bowl more overs for his country, considering his value to the Indian team in white-ball cricket, the team management would want him to fully recover.

Once he gets accustomed to the role, there will be comparisons with MS Dhoni but Pandya’s modus operandi is very unique. He is more explosive and capable of finishing it off in one burst. He doesn’t wait for the mistakes, he makes it happen.
Perhaps Hardik Pandya’s time is just beginning.

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