Hardik proves once again that he plays a key role in India’s fortunes

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Sydney– “To the thousands of fans who cheered for us at the MCG and the millions back home, thank you,” Hardik Pandya has tweeted following India’s sensational last-ball victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup lung opener on Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Pandya played a stellar role both with the ball and the bat in the sensational four-wicket victory as India came roaring back from a disastrous start when chasing Pakistan’s 159 for eight and won in a dramatic last over from left arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz.

It was Pandya whose presence at the other end gave the confidence to Virat Kohli that he will get adequate support at the other end when he went on to repair the early damage inflicted on India by Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

The team had lost the wickets of K.L. Rahul, skipper Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav to the Pakistani pace duo.

Then when the promoted Axar Patel was run out trying to steal a non-existent single, India were in dire straits at 31 for four just past the power play phase.

The 29-year-old Gujarat-born cricketer could not complete the task of taking India past the finish line as he got out in the first ball of that last over for a 31-ball 40 with two sixes and one four, also crossing the 1,000-run tally in the process.

But it was he who had started the carnage against Nawaz, who ended up giving away 42 runs for two wickets, in the 12th over when he smacked the left arm spinner for a six over mid-wicket off the first ball and then hoisted the bowler over long-on for another maximum.

Inspired by Pandya’s attacking mode, Kohli, who remained unconquered on a glorious 53-ball 82 at the end, had also cleared the rope for the first time in his innings when he jumped out of his crease to loft Nawaz for a straight six.

That over from Nawaz cost him and Pakistan 20 runs and gave the first big momentum to India’s run chase after they had stuttered to 45 for four at the halfway stage of the run chase.

Pandya’s role in the team has become increasingly vital in the T20 format, thus bringing back memories of the stellar role played by legend Kapil Dev in Tests and One Day Internationals in the 1980s.

One look at his figures with the bat and the ball from the July 7 T20 game against England in Southampton would give an indication as to how important is Pandya’s all round show.

In this phase he played 13 matches but remained unbeaten with the bat on three occasions to tally 322 runs at a healthy average of 32.2. In the same phase he has taken 14 wickets.

And the team has invariably performed well when Pandya, who has figured in 74 T20 Internationals, had done his double role effectively. That’s the impact he has had on India’s fortunes since his comeback from a lower back injury.

The victory over Pakistan on Sunday from what looked a hopeless position only reconfirmed his importance in the overall scheme of things. (IANS)

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