Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar heaped praise on Hardik Pandya, saying the all-rounder came up with an “absolutely terrific performance” in the third ODI against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui on Monday.
Gavaskar pointed out that Hardik Pandya wanted to forget the controversy surrounding his controversial comments on Koffee With Karan and that the best way to do so is to perform well on the field.
Hardik Pandya made a remarkable comeback to the Indian team. Playing his first international since September, Pandya came on to bowl in the 11th over and was right away on the mark. His first five overs cost only 9 runs. Meanwhile, he lost his cool on senior pro Shikhar Dhawan for a poor effort on the field and then showed his teammates how it is done when he spectacularly caught Kane Williamson off the bowling of Yuzvendra Chahal.
“Terrific performance, absolutely terrific performance. It’s never easy [to fly and straightway play a match]. The jet lag can get to you. He is a young man, he has had things that have happened and he just wants to forget it. The best way to forget it is being out on the field. And this is what he does best. Being on the field and playing for the country… that’s what you want,” Gavaskar told Star Sports.
Gavaskar added: “He’s bowled a very good line, he has used the bouncers to very good effect. He has been like a live wire on the field.
“That’s the plus that Hardik Pandya brings to the team. He is such an outstanding fielder. He will get you some impossible catches, get you some terrific run-outs and then with the bat and the ball, he does well.
“He was very, very impressive. You know why this team management wants him in the side. He actually fills that little blank that was there. This allows the team to be balanced. He covers all the bases for the team.”
Pandya was a little expensive in his last five overs but he picked up the crucial wickets of Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner off successive overs to dent New Zealand’s progress.
Pandya had been suspended and asked to return home before the ODI series against Australia after his sexist comments on Koffee with Karan. Pandya and KL Rahul sparked a controversy when they bragged about their night outs on the TV show. Pandya had immediately apologised to his fans and teammates besides replying to a show cause notice. But the BCCI still suspended Pandya and Rahul who returned to India in the second week of January.
But the suspensions were lifted pending the appointment of an ombudsman and Pandya flew out to join his India teammates in New Zealand while Rahul stayed back to play for India A against England Lions.
Hardik Pandya had last played for India on September 19, 2018 in an Asia Cup match against Pakistan. However, he bowled only 4.5 overs before pulling off with an injury. He consequently missed the rest of the Asia Cup, the entire home series against West Indies and the T20Is and Tests in Australia.
Pandya did play in the Ranji Trophy before flying to Australia and he was cerain to play the three-match ODI series before he was suspended. Vijay Shankar, who replaced Pandya as the seam-bowling all-rounder played three ODIs in Melbourne, Napier and Mount Maunganui and bowled decently.
Hardik Pandya, however, grabbed his chances on Monday with both hands to remind everyone why he is the first-choice all-rounder for India.