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Hardik Pandya needed just six balls to leave a long-lasting impression in the minds of the cricket fans during last night’s marquee clash between India and Pakistan.
The all-rounder was sent to bat ahead of MS Dhoni in the penultimate over. The decision was surprising but worked wonders, as he ended up smashing 20 runs including a hat-trick of sixes off Imad Wasim’s last over.
The 23 year old, however, was not a pre-decided choice to bat at the end of the innings. In a post-match interview, Pandya reveals that it was in the 46th over that coach Anil Kumble made him aware that he would be going next even, as Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli were taking the Pakistan bowlers apart, with barely two overs left in the game.
“I got to know in the 46th over when coach told me, ‘You will be going next, go pad up.’ Obviously, I padded up quickly and once I got my gloves, I went out straight away because Yuvi paa got out,” Pandya told ICC at Edgbaston in Birmingham after India’s 124-run win (via DLS) to kick off its Champions Trophy defence successfully.
Pandya started off with a single off the first delivery he faced after coming in to bat in the 47th over and took the strike in the final over which left-arm spinner Imad Wasim bowled. His confidence grew 10 folds after watching a slow bowler come into the attack and his belief quickly became evident, as he hammered three sixes in a row.
The first two deliveries sailed over the long off region over the ropes. The third was dispatched over the mid-wicket region. The fourth ball ended as a dot ball, Fortunately for Wasim, Pandya was restricted to a single off the penultimate delivery. However, the single gave the strike to Kohli who ended the innings with a boundary. A total of 23 runs came from the last over 319 for three.
The method to Pandya’s hitting was simple: belief in his ability.
“When I saw the left-arm spinner, I knew that I could go for it,” he revealed. “It’s all about backing yourself. I always feel that in cricket, you need to back yourself and be confident. Once you are confident, you take the right decision and eventually that pays off.”
Pandya admits that the extra pressure of playing an Indo-Pak game was in his mind. However, he kept his mind cool to end on a high. After shining with a starry cameo, Pandya came back to bowl an effective spell of 2/43 during the defence. His bustling pace got him the wickets off Sarfaraz Ahmed and Imad Wasim.
“Honestly I won’t lie, the pressure was there,” he admitted. “But still at the back of my mind, I was thinking of it as a normal game because I didn’t want to take the unnecessary pressure. In any game, I wouldn’t want to take unnecessary pressure on myself because that makes you do something that you are not supposed to do.”
Pandya also stated that the disciplined approach of sticking to a line and length paid off brilliantly for every India bowler.
“Obviously, with the score they were chasing, I always knew that not just me, they are going to charge every bowler,” he explained. “We had to back ourselves and bowl the right areas which we did, and that’s why we got the wickets. That always pays off. If you bowl the right areas, the hard lengths, it pays. I was only focussing on what I can do and not what the batsmen can do. That always helps.”