With the ODI World Cup in sight, hosts India will be looking to figure out their perfect permutations and combinations ahead of the ICC showpiece event. The visitors received a setback in the form of a 1-2 ODI series defeat against Australia recently, and have plenty to ponder upon. India began the series with a five-wicket victory and took a 1-0 lead. But Australia staged a fightback and sealed a 10-wicket win in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam. Then in the deciding ODI, the visitors grabbed a 21-run victory to seal the series with a 2-1 win.
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One of the positives for India in the three-match series was Hardik Pandya, who also skippered the side in the first ODI. Regular captain Rohit Sharma was absent for the first ODI, and the all-rounder took over the role. Praised for his aggressive captaincy in the first ODI, Hardik took a wicket and played a knock of 25 runs off 31 balls. In the second ODI, he saw a sudden dip in form and was dismissed for one off three balls.
In the final ODI, Hardik bounced back to form despite a defeat for India. The Gujarat Titans skipper took three wickets, which were of openers Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh and Aussie captain Steve Smith. Meanwhile, he also smacked a knock of 40 runs off 40 balls. Speaking on Cricbuzz, wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik analysed Hardik’s role and called him the ‘most important player’ for India.
“He is unarguably the most important player in the lineup. A, because he brings two skills to the floor and the fact that he brings two tough skills to the floor. Medium pacer and batting all-rounder is something that is very, very hard to get. Yes, there are 2-3 players who are probably spinning all-rounders, but fast bowling all-rounders is very hard to get”, he said.
“He bats really well through the middle and obviously when it comes to bowling, he seems to find a way to chip in and get wickets. What makes him really hard to play is his natural link because the way he bowls, you always feel he is going to keep short of length. But the moment he starts bowling fuller, the batsman’s weight is on the backfoot, looking for the short ball a lot more and hence you always tend to be slightly slower. It was a well-thought out dismissal of Mitchell Marsh, he changed the pace well, he got Travis Head to play a pull shot, dropped in deep square. But again got him playing a cut shot.
“He is bowling well. He is definitely a very important cog in the wheel. He is one of those players that literally make up the outlook of the team, the way the team is constructed depends on where Hardik Pandya is. Suddenly if you remove him from the whole team and you feel that are we going a batter more or are we going a batter less. It becomes a massive question mark. For Team India, the key player is Hardik Pandya and if he is in form, he brings a lot to the table”, he further added.
The 29-year-old will be back in action in IPL 2023, which is scheduled to begin from March 31. He led Gujarat Titans to the title last season, in what was also their debut campaign. GT open their campaign this time in the season opener against Chennai Super Kings, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
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