‘It was wildcard. Not only did they pick him, they backed him as marquee player’ | Cricket

Team India had a great run in the recently concluded tour of England. Be it the rescheduled Test, which India lost despite dominating proceedings, or the following white-ball series, the tourists ensured they were always on top of their game. From Rishabh Pant’s counter-attack in the Edgbaston Test, to the stunning 133-run partnership between him and Hardik Pandya in the final ODI in Manchester, the series saw some memorable performances from Indian players.

While it was a memorable outing for Pant, the series proved to be good for Pandya. The all-rounder performed well in both the departments of the game and took six wickets in three ODIs. In the final ODI the 28-year-old all-rounder completed his best figures in ODIs, 4/24 from 7 overs, and he was equally good with the bat, blasting 71 runs off just 55 balls.

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After the dream performance, several former cricketers have praised Pandya for the remarkable performance he produced after returning to the scene following a back injury. Cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar identified Pandya as “a completely changed person”.

Highlighting Pandya’s impressive performances with Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League, recent tours of Ireland and England, Manjrekar in conversation Sports18 He said he now finds Pandya more “mature” and “ambitious”.

“Hardik Pandya is a completely changed person. It was a wild card played by the franchise. Firstly, picking him as one of their first players, before that his fitness was an issue, his batting was a problem for the former franchise. They did not pick him, and supported him as one of their marquee players, who gave him the captaincy. The way the league turned out for him. Hardik Pandya is a changed man now, with a lot of maturity, responsibility and ambition too. I see a sense of ambition rising in him. And once you have that, there is tremendous motivation to grow in Indian cricket. He is now addressed as third person. Hardik Pandya has arrived,” he said.

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Manjrekar also shared his thoughts on Pant and Pandya’s match-winning performances in the final ODI. The duo built an innings after India were reduced to 72/4 in a challenging 260-run chase. The partnership comfortably secured India the match as Pant scored his maiden ODI century in the process.

“Yes, I hope Hardik can keep his fitness together. No problem with Rishabh Pant. What we saw in the last one day, I was completely blown away by the sheer talent and ability, temperament too, of these two guys, built a long partnership and ultimately, how easily India won. Thanks to Rishabh Pant who was there till the end. So yes, good quality batsmen, and they are going to bat at No. 4 and No. 5 whether it’s T20 cricket or 50-over cricket or Pant can also open. In 2019, we had a lot of problems finding the right middle-order but now we have some quality supply,” he said.


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