indian cricket

Second India-Sri Lanka Twenty20: Hardik Pandya repays skipper MS Dhoni’s faith

Pushed up the order, the 22-year old from Baroda played a vital knock to ensure Sri Lanka were chasing a massive total.

Sixty nine runs does not seem an awful lot, but in Twenty20 cricket, it is as comprehensive a victory as they come. Shocked by the upstarts on a seaming pitch in Pune on Tuesday, India’s power-hitters got their revenge in Ranchi in Friday on a track more to their liking. It was a dominating performance – India were hardly troubled for large sections of the match and their 69-run victory is their third highest margin of victory in all Twenty20 Internationals they have played.

The win followed a similar script as the ones in Australia with all of India’s big names coming to the party. Shikhar Dhawan hit a half-century, Rohit Sharma finished seven runs short of one and Ravichandran Ashwin floored Sri Lanka, returning figures of just 3/14 in his four overs. But captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will probably get more pleasure out of another player’s performance – youngster Hardik Pandya who was sent up the order and repaid the captain’s confidence with a sparkling 12-ball 27.

Dhoni’s double whammy

It was a typical Dhoni double whammy. During the series in Australia, Dhoni had quite categorically stated that he was not in favour of shuffling the batting line-up, even going on record to say that “[The] experiment word is never there with the Indian team.” Yet on his home ground with thousands baying for him to come in and bat, Dhoni made an unusual move – he promoted Hardik Pandya up the order ahead of both Yuvraj Singh and himself, a move which ultimately paid rich dividends.

Pandya has been in the team for a while now but has hardly got a chance to have a meaningful knock. But thanks to Dhoni’s punt today, the 22-year old Baroda boy finally got his chance. India had got off to a good start, but after the dismissals of the two openers, things had slowed down a bit. Sri Lanka seemed to be employing the middle-over squeeze on India and someone needed to hit out.

Shift of momentum

Pandya played the role perfectly. He immediately injected urgency to proceedings, running hard with Suresh Raina at the other end and converting singles into twos. At a critical juncture at the match when it seemed Sri Lanka might be able to tie India down to a 170 plus score, Pandya slammed two massive sixes to shift the momentum. He may have finished with only 27 but his knock was far more important in the grander scheme of the match.

All-rounders are a vital commodity in cricket which may be the reason why the selectors fast-tracked Pandya into the team, with an eye on the upcoming World Twenty20. But whatever doubt there was about his capabilities should be erased now. Pandya adds a vital finishing link to the Indian squad – a multi-faceted all-rounder who can bowl and can finish off games with power hitting. Twenty20 may be chaotic but India may have found a formula to excel amidst the madness.

Second Twenty20: India (196/6 in 20 overs) beat Sri Lanka (127/9 in 20 overs) by 69 runs.

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