When Hardik Pandya hit Adam Zampa for three consecutive sixes on Sunday, it was the fourth time in four months that he had done the ‘dandiya’ in international cricket. It was exciting to watch him script those sixes against the Australians who are better, stronger strategists than the others —Pakistan and Sri Lanka — against whom he had done the trick before.
Pandya did his ‘dandiya’ dance a bit late in his innings. He was on 35 off 45 balls at the end of the 36th over, and we know why he was slow. He was rebuilding the innings in the company of MS Dhoni after the Australians rocked the Indian frontline and middle order inside 22 overs. At 90 for five, the way forward had to be slow and steady.
The sizzling four over mid-on off the second ball in the 37th over was the appetiser served by Pandya before the six-course meal. Ball number four was dispatched over long-off. From what Steve Smith did just after that we could guess that the Australian captain had a premonition of what was coming. A straight mid-on was deployed, in addition to long-on and long-off fielders, to stop Pandya from going straight and to trap him if he did. Ball number five sailed over the long-on boundary despite all that protection, precaution and premonition.
It was then anybody’s guess what was going on in Pandya’s mind. From the County Ground to The Oval to Pallekele, the three instances of consecutive six hitting by Pandya in the last three months, from June to August, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, had a pattern about the way they had happened that should have given away the method and the mood of the man in focus.
Neither Zampa nor Smith seemed to have got it right. Or, if they did, they were helpless to do anything to change the course of history. Zampa went about his business the same way he did with the previous two deliveries, tossed up on the middle, and Pandya repeated himself with pleasure.
It was Pandya’s Champions Trophy daredevilry in June that had launched the comparison campaign in India.
Kapil Dev, said chief of selectors MSK Prasad. Ben Stokes, said skipper Virat Kohli. Jacques Kallis, said the young man, much before the others began comparing him to players of the past and present. Of course, the 24-year-old has a long way to go before he could emulate what Kapil or Kallis had done for years for their teams.
Pandya has been humble about the awesome comparisons he got to hear about. When Prasad floated the Kapil Dev theory last month, Pandya made a “90 percent” cut that sounded down to earth: if he’s able to clock up even 10 percent of what Kapil Dev had achieved he would be happy in life.
Pandya may have been too modest to confine himself to 10 percent, but it’s fair to say he is just about there where he said he would be happy. The series against Australia has just begun and the battle will get tougher in the four ODIs and three T20s that will roll out in pretty quick time.
If Pandya could repeat in the series against Australia what he has done in the recent months against the other teams, never mind the truth that current Australian team is one of the weakest without star bowlers like Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, he will have comfortably crossed the 10 percent cut, figuratively.
The road ahead stretches miles and miles for Pandya to get closer to the remaining 90 percent. That’s the challenge. The good thing about it is that he has the talent and, more importantly, the right man as the boss in Kohli. What else do you require to do the extra mile when your boss stands up and applauds, saying “we are lucky to have him”?
That’s when we begin to wonder whose luck is it anyway: Pandya’s, Kohli’s or Indian cricket’s?
From the way it looks at the moment, that’s three strokes of luck, each complementing the other to relentlessly push the bar of possibilities we thought until a year ago was a stupid, impossible dream.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman