India vs Australia: Lucky to have a player like Hardik Pandya – Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli was all praise for Hardik Pandya after he slammed a career-best 83 off 66 balls to guide the Indian cricket team to a comfortable win over Australia in Chennai.

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Sep 18, 2017 22:30 IST
India vs Australia,Hardik Pandya,Virat Kohli
(L to R) Hardik Pandya, Virat Kohli and Kedar Jadhav (L-R) celebrate the dismissal of Steve Smith during the first ODI between India and Australia.(REUTERS)

The victorious India and Australia landed in Kolkata on Monday after Virat Kohli’s team put up a fighting display to clinch the rain-hit opening ODI in Chennai overnight. There is threat of rain over Thursday’s second game at Eden Gardens as well.

However, Hardik Pandya’s rapidly growing stature as all-rounder has created all the buzz. The man Virat Kohli had compared to England’s match-winner Ben Stokes recently, took the game by storm, hitting a career-best 83 off 66 balls.

READ | Hardik Pandya, India’s match-winner in Chennai, wore Mumbai Indians gloves

His six-hitting punctured Australia spinner Adam Zampa first and then his two strikes, accounting for Steve Smith (1) and in-form Travis Head (5) in the space of six deliveries, left Australia hobbled in their chase.

Kohli hailed the 23-year-old as the man who made the difference. “We lost wickets but MS and Kedar played well. Hardik then, and MS finished it off like he does. Today was an example, Sri Lanka was the example of how good the middle and lower order can be,” he said at the presentation ceremony at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

The impact player

“Hardik believes in himself, and his innings was the game-changer. He possesses all three skills equally and we are lucky to have him.” Pandya’s 76 in the ICC Champions Trophy final against Pakistan was in a losing cause, but his century against Sri Lanka and the Chennai knock, allied to his skill with the ball, have added depth to India.

With leg-spinner Yuzhvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah taking charge of the bowling, Kohli pointed out India’s “best T20 attack” didn’t give Australia much chance chasing 164 in 21 overs.

READ | India vs Australia: Rain threat looms large on second ODI in Kolkata

MS Dhoni (79) guided Pandya in their 118-run partnership that bailed out India after the top order collapse, but like a true all-rounder, he produced the impact. Hammering three sixes and a four off Zampa in the 36th over turned the innings on its head.

But Pandya played down his performance. “It was a good day for me…” He added: “I don’t think anything has changed. I am the same Hardik I was a year back. Maybe people’s thinking was changed. To be honest, when Mahi bhai was batting with me, we knew what Zampa was going to bowl. I am glad what I am doing with the bat and ball.”

The Aussies sure aren’t.

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 22:30 IST