In a major blow for the Indian cricket team, all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been ruled out of the limited overs series against Australia due to a lower back injury. Ravindra Jadeja has been named as the replacement in the side for the series which will be the last bilateral ODI series for the side before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will be begin on May 30. Pandya was suspended for the Australia series due to his controversial comments on the show Koffee With Karan and he made a comeback into the side in the third ODI against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui where he put in some solid performances. This will be the first assignment for Jadeja following the Australia series which India won 2-1. The left-arm all-rounder was not picked for the New Zealand series which India won 4-1.
After being picked in the third ODI, Pandya displayed his mental strength following his comeback. First, he took a fine diving catch at midwicket to send Kane Williamson back and break a solid stand with Ross Taylor. His aggressive spell in Mount Maunganui at the death when he got the wickets of Henry Nicholls and Santner drew praise from Taylor, who said, “Hardik brings in a very nice balance to the Indian side. He came in and bowled well, used the change-ups and bumper very well, with the wind as well. We wanted to negate the spinners as much as possible. I thought we were able to do that, but Hardik came in and got some vital wickets and a good catch as well,” Taylor said.
Pandya encountered a tough situation when he came out to bat in the fifth and final ODI against New Zealand in Wellington. India had recovered after a disastrous start of 18/4 thanks to 90 from Ambati Rayudu and partnerships of 98 with Vijay Shankar (45) and 74 with Kedar Jadhav (34). The quick dismissal of Rayudu and Jadhav threatened to stall India’s charge in the death overs and at 205/7 after 46 overs, India were staring at a below par score. Enter Pandya and he change the complexion of the game in a way he knew best. Counterattack.
The right-hander launched three consecutive sixes off legspinner Todd Astle, muscled a pull shot off Trent Boult to fine leg with one leg off the ground ala Kapil Dev. The carnage continued when he launched James Neesham for two fours and a six. It took a fine catch from Boult to dismiss Pandya for 45 off 22 balls. India had scored 47 in 3.5 overs to finish on 252 all out on what was described as a ‘difficult wicket’ by Rohit Sharma.
The Wellington knock is similar to the way the all-rounder changed the complexion of the game during the Chennai ODI against Australia in 2017. Pandya came to the crease with India in deep trouble at 90/5. Pandya, along with MS Dhoni, got their eye in and kept the scoreboard ticking. After building a solid base, Pandya decided to explode and he chose his moment. He blasted a four and three sixes off legspinner Adam Zampa. Following the onslaught, Pandya hit a boundary every over as India smashed 50 runs in four overs.
Initially, his knock of 83, studded with five fours and five sixes and his partnership of 118 with MS Dhoni, who blasted 79 helped India turn the match around in dramatic style to clinch a crucial win. Pandya’s all-round exploits helped India thrash Australia 4-1 in what still remains his best show. The Wellington ODI was termed as a redemption for Pandya, who was facing an uncertain future following his ‘outrageous’ comments on the show Koffee With Karan.