Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya plays a shot during the World Cup match between India and Australia at The Oval in London. Image Credit: AFP

Nottingham: Indian allrounder Hardik Pandya has become the talk of the World Cup after he played the role of a pinch-hitter to perfection in the match against Australia at the Oval ground on Sunday. His breezy 48 off just 27 balls, with three sixes and four boundaries, won praise from his skipper Virat Kohli and many former cricketers as well.

When Kohli was asked about Pandya, who is playing his first World Cup, the Indian skipper said: “He (Pandya) has clarity of thought and a brilliant striking ability. He knows he’s batting really well now. In the past, he used to try hard but I think what this IPL (Indian Premier League) has done for his batting is that he now believes he can clear the boundary whenever he wants. So he’s not trying to over-hit the ball but just timing it well. That way you are not forcing to make anything happen. The bowler also gets under pressure because he needs to get it right. And that is an amazing place to be in, which he’s going through now.”

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Former Australian great Steve Waugh has, meanwhile, compared Pandya with South Africa’s aggressive allrounder Lance Klusener and pointed out that he would hog the limelight as Klusener did in the 1999 World Cup in England. “It’s Hardik Pandya’s innings that will send shivers down the opposition spines. He has the ability to finish with some clean hitting that no opposing captain can protect,” Waugh wrote in the ICC’s official website.

After The Oval match, Kohli gave some insight into Pandya’s batting approach. “Honestly, he (Pandya) doesn’t really care which tournament he’s playing. He just wants to go out there and express himself, and that’s his strength. I believe he should always stick to is that strength, and that’s why we back him so much. He has this great game-changing ability and believes in himself a lot.”

The Indian skipper is of the opinion that Pandya will go a long way. “He is in a good space right now. It is important to stay there and have fun, which is what he is doing now. I’m delighted to see him come back so strongly and just enjoy himself on the field.”

Kohli also noted that he is fine to play second fiddle when Pandya is in full flow. “As long as guys like Hardik and MS (Dhoni) play like that, I have no problem in just doing my job and taking singles and being at one end. Sometimes, you will get an opportunity to strike as well, and this is what we discussed as a team.

“If some guys are hitting at a certain strike rate, you make sure that you play a second fiddle and control the game because if you lose wickets - if we lost five wickets in that phase, you’re looking at 20 runs less maybe,” the skipper added.

- With inputs from agencies