Hardik Pandya: India's latest game changer

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 20, 2017 12:44 hrs
Hardik Pandya

In the final of the 2011 World Cup, legendary Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardene hit a brilliant century. In contrast, India skipper MS Dhoni made a match-winning unbeaten 91.

The result: Dhoni couldn't hit a century but India won the World Cup after 28 years. 

Many a time, in limited overs cricket, scoring a century doesn't guarantee a win. But a quickfire 80, scored at better than a run a ball, can be invaluable to the team's cause.

When such an innings is played when the team is tottering in a poor position, the value of the innings is even higher. During the first ODI between India and Australia at Chennai, Hardik Pandya came to the crease with India reeling at 87/5. 

He took his time initially but soon opened up to score 83 off just 66 balls. This helped India score a competitive 281/7 off their 50 overs and they eventually won by 26 runs via the Duckworth/ Lewis method.

Although Pandya is the new game changer that India has found, take a look at some fabulous knocks by Indian batsmen who scored between 80 and 90 at a batting strike rate greater than 100 and helped India win.

India vs Australia, 1 st Quarter-Final, ICC Knockout, Gymkhana Club Ground, Nairobi, 07 October 2000

Yuvraj Singh: 84 off 80 balls

Result: India won by 20 runs

Yuvraj was identified as a precocious 18-year- old and was chosen in the Indian squad for this tournament. He made his debut in the previous ODI against Kenya but did not get a chance to showcase his skills with the bat.

In this match, he came to the crease with India in a spot of bother at 90/3. In those days, Australia were indisputably the best team in the world and their bowling line-up for this match included Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Ian Harvey.

Yuvraj had to deal with the blistering pace of the Aussie attack in his debut innings. He played with a composure and maturity seldom seen in one so young and went after the bowling. He literally toyed with the Aussie bowling hitting 12 fours to help India post a competitive 265/9 off their 50 overs. India bowled and fielded well to win by 20 runs and Yuvraj was adjudged the Man of the Match.

India vs England, Final, Natwest Series, Lord's Cricket Ground, 13th July 2002

Mohammad Kaif: 87* off 75 balls

Result: India won by two wickets

England had set India a formidable 326 to win and had India in deep trouble at 146/5. At that stage, India's young guns Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif were at the crease and the commentators and critics had started writing India's obituary. However, both players who were the future of India’s cricket soon got into their stride. They put on a partnership off 126 in just under 18 overs to get India back into the hunt.

Kaif kept the scoreboard ticking with singles and twos but did not miss out on any opportunity to reach the boundary. There was no wild slogging or agricultural shots, but just good batting laced with aggression. His unbeaten 87 contained six fours and two sixes. Kaif remained till the India to guide India to one of its most famous victorious. He was adjudged the Man of the Match

India vs England, 4th ODI, Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh 23rd January 2013

Suresh Raina: 89* off 79 balls

Result: India won by five wickets

India were chasing a modest target of 257 and were reduced to 90/3 when Suresh Raina joined Rohit Sharma at the crease.

Raina is one of the few Indian batsmen who is capable of going after the bowling right go even without taking the time to settle in. When he arrived at the crease, the required rate was in excess of six runs an over. If India had lost this match the ODI series would have been tied at two apiece and the series would have been in the balance.

However, the southpaw unleashed a dazzling array of strokes and even overshadowed Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He struck nine fours and a six and India clinched the ODI series 3-1.

India vs Zimbabwe, ICC World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, 14th March, 2015

MS Dhoni: 85* off 76 balls

Result: India won by six wickets

India were unbeaten in the tournament and had already qualified for the quarter-finals. However, a loss in the last league match would upset their rhythm and rob them of momentum going into the knock out stages. Zimbabwe had posted 287 on the board and India were in dire straits at 92/4. Captain Cool was at the crease and as usual looked his unflappable self.

Dhoni is such a versatile player that he can adjust his game according to the situation. He realized that another wicket at that stage would have been curtains for India and was content to work the ball for singles allowing Raina to take center stage. While critics may scoff and say that the bowling was mediocre, that should not detract from Dhoni’s innings. He finished off the match in trademark fashion by hooking Panyangara for a six over deep backward square leg to preserve India’s unbeaten run in the tournament.

The author tweets @ravivenkat007

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