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Transformed Hardik Pandya keeps it simple

All-rounder proves his worth after being promoted to bat at No. 4

“Believe”. The seven-letter word is inscribed on Hardik Pandya’s left forearm for over a year. When the Baroda all-rounder unveiled the tattoo to his fans through his social media account, some of the connoisseurs were sceptical whether it was another attempt of the young all-rounder, often perceived to be flashy, to seek attention.

However, over the last year, the younger of two siblings have proven that not only has he believed in his ability but also lived up to the faith showered in him by India’s change room.

Oozing confidence

No wonder then that when Pandya, a fortnight shy of turning 24, sat down to interact with the media soon after pocketing yet another man-of-the-match award after leading India’s run chase in the third ODI against Australia, not only did the tattoo stand out but the confidence he had in himself also oozed in each of his replies.

Moments earlier, during the post-match presentation, captain Virat Kohli had credited coach Ravi Shastri for promoting Pandya to No. 4 for countering the spin of Ashton Agar. For the second time in a week, albeit in contrasting situations, Pandya tormented an Aussie spinner with his ability to heave the ball into the stands.

If it was leggie Adam Zampa who bore the brunt during Pandya’s rescue act of 66-ball 83 while walking into bat at 87 for five in the season-opener in Chennai, on Sunday he took Agar to the cleaners after walking into bat exactly halfway into the chase of 294 after the set openers had perished in quick succession.

“It’s not just about hitting. It’s pretty important that I read the game. That time (in Chennai) I thought that Zampa was bowling and I knew that I could hit a six off him anytime I wanted to,” he said, as a matter of fact.

“That’s why I waited till (Zampa’s) seventh over and then I got the opportunity to change the momentum and eventually one over changed the course of that game. I tried and it came out pretty well. That’s just my thinking. It’s about being positive and backing yourself and if I feel like, I go for it. I read the situation and go for it.”

That he is a clean hitter of the cricket ball was widely evident when this correspondent watched him dismantle Mumbai’s bowling attack, led by a certain Zaheer Khan, scoring an unbeaten 57-ball 82 in a zonal Twenty20 league match early in 2014. Incidentally, John Wright, the former India coach and a talent scout for Mumbai Indians, was also in attendance for the match and it didn’t come as a surprise that Pandya was signed up for his base price of ₹10 lakh in the IPL auction a few weeks later.

Upward curve

Since then, Pandya saw an upward curve before losing his form — and place in the Indian squad as a result — in a short span of time. However, ever since he toured Australia as part of the India ‘A’ squad last year under the watchful eyes of coach Rahul Dravid, Pandya has emerged as a reliable all-rounder who could bail the team out with his strokeplay and consistent pace bowling from any situation.

On Sunday night, he was offered his third opportunity to bat at the key position of No. 4 for his team. And after faltering to capitalise in the first two outings — in West Indies in June and against Sri Lanka last month — he grasped the opportunity with both hands.

Keeping it simple

When asked about the challenges of being a part of a flexible middle-order where an individual’s batting position is far from being fixed, Pandya preferred to keep it simple.

“Rather than seeing this as a challenge, I see this as an opportunity to do something nice for the team. When I was told I was going to go out to bat next, I was happy. This is the first time I played so many balls, so it was great,” he said.

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