Man of the match on debut, in Hardik Pandya skipper MS Dhoni seems to have found a seaming all-rounder.
Over the past year, India have used Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan in the role, but Sunday’s performance by Pandya will allow Dhoni flexibility in team combination.
Pandya was asked to open the bowling with Umesh Yadav, ahead of Jasprit Bumrah, and the Baroda pacer didn’t disappoint. Pandya has been in the mix of things for long. During the T20 World Cup earlier this year, he bowled the last over and defended two runs against Bangladesh in a tied game, and was among wickets through the tournament.
Making full use of the pitch, which had pace and carry, Pandya troubled New Zealand opener Martin Guptill. The 23-year-old bowled just outside the off stump and had Guptill play two streaky drives which went to the boundary. But he stuck to the task, and on the third attempt had Guptill edge to Rohit Sharma at second slip.
While Umesh choked the Kiwis with the wickets of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, Pandya removed the dangerous Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi.
Anderson went after a wide ball only to find Umesh at mid-off, while Ronchi was done in by pace and ended up flicking to Umesh at mid-on.
Praising Pandya’s effort, Dhoni said the ploy was to use him as the third seamer and also give him a chance to exploit the conditions. “The reason was that he is very deceptive. He can bowl quick and even swing the ball on wickets where some of the other pacers don’t get that kind of swing, He can also get some purchase off the wicket too. Bumrah is equally good but I can use him in the middle overs and also in the death,” said Dhoni.
No bunny with the bat, Pandya also gives depth to the batting and can come handy when quick runs are needed. Dhoni said after seeing Pandya bowl, he had no qualms in continuing with him as the third seamer.
“We would like to see how he reacts to different conditions but I can’t see the reason why he can’t be our first pick when it comes to three fast bowlers,” he added.