Hardik Pandya’s heroics with both and ball in India’s Asia Cup opener against Pakistan in Dubai still continues to be the talk of the town. The all-rounder earned plaudits from the who’s who of the game after putting in a Player of the Match performance to lead India to a five-wicket victory. After a sedate start, when Pakistan were just looking for a big finish banking on their power-hitters in the middle order, Hardik came to the party by dismissing Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed and Khusdil Shah. Keeping the big square boundaries of the Dubai International Stadium in mind, Hardik used the short-pitched deliveries to good effect as Pakistan batters had no answer.
In the tricky 148-run chase on a pitch which wasn’t easy for strokeplay, India were in a spot of bother when Hardik joined hands with Ravindra Jadeja. The duo put together a crucial 52-run stand for the fifth wicket and when Jadeja was dismissed in the last over, Hardik kept his cool and finished the match with a six in the fourth ball. he remained unbeaten on 33 off 17 balls.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who too was dismissed off a short ball, albeit against Bhuvbeshwar Kumar, was asked about Hardik’s brilliance. Unlike some noted former Pakistan cricketers including Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi, the right-hander gave a rather timid response.
Here’s how the conversation took place between Indian journalist Vimal Kumar and Babar Azam.
Journalist: Hardik Pandya jaisa khiladi T20 cricket mein jab fit and fine rehta hai toh ek bada difference karta hai? Wo India k paas ek bada advantage hai? (A player like Hardik Pandya when fit can make a big difference. Does India have an advantage by having someone like him in the mix?)
Babar Azam: Definitely usne bowling acchi aur batting bhi kafi accchi ki. Mere khayal se wo kafi accha all-rounder hai. Aj jis tarike se usne finish kia hai wo kafi accha tha. (He bowled well and batted quite well too. He is a good all-rounder and the way he finished the match was good).
Pandya said that the win was important for the side and it is happy to get it.
“Our nerves were checked, we were challenged as a team. Love the way he (Jadeja) came out and played,” he added.
Questioned by Jadeja on his mindset during the final over, Pandya said that the task of hitting seven in the final over did not feel big because there was a left-arm spinner.
“Had there been five fielders or ten, I would have hit it out anyways. I did not feel pressure but was rather counting on bowler to make mistakes,” he added.