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IND vs NZ, 3rd T20I: 'Don't mind coming in and playing the role which MS Dhoni used to play' - Hardik Pandya

IND vs NZ 2022-23: Team India hammered New Zealand by 168 runs in the final Ahmedabad T20I and claimed the series 2-1. Meanwhile, Hardik Pandya has explained that he is ready to bat as per the need of the situation like MS Dhoni used to do.

Star India all-rounder Hardik Pandya feels he has developed the ability to absorb pressure and doesn't mind playing the anchoring role that the great Mahendra Singh Dhoni played for the team. The 29-year-old has always been known for his batting pyrotechnics but says he has now learnt to take the back seat and anchor the innings, which master chaser Dhoni did at the fag end of his international career.

"See, to be honest, I've always enjoyed hitting sixes, but I have to evolve, and that is life. I have to take the other part where I've always believed in partnerships. I want to give my team and the other person more calmness and the assurance that at least I'm there," stand-in Twenty20 International (T20I) skipper Pandya said during the press conference after India sealed the T20 series against New Zealand 2-1.

"I've played more games than any of those guys out there. So, I've known the experience and more than the experience part. It's where I've batted, learnt how to accept pressure, swallow it and make sure the team and everything are calm," Pandya added. Dhoni is known for his calm demeanour. Hardik now feels it is his responsibility to step into the legendary wicketkeeper's shoes as a batter and is ready to sacrifice his strike rate to play that role.

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"In that way, maybe I have to get my strike rate down or... Taking new opportunities or taking new roles is [something] I've always looked forward to. I don't mind coming in and playing the role Maahi [Dhoni] used to play somewhere down the line," Pandya said. Hardik has scored 1,271 runs at a strike rate of 142.17 in 87 T20Is.

"I was young, and I was hitting all around the park, but now since he has gone, all of a sudden, that responsibility... It has naturally come to me, and I don't mind [doing it]. We're getting the result we want, and it's okay," stated Pandya. During the third T20I against New Zealand, Hardik did just that, allowing the in-form Shubman Gill (126) to take the attack to the opposition as India posted a massive 234/4 and then bowled out NZ for 66 for a 168-run win.

Hardik -- The new ball bowler
With pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah nursing an injury, Hardik has backed himself to bowl more with the new ball, having bowled 12 overs in the powerplay, conceding 86 runs for two wickets this home season.

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"I had to bowl with the new ball [in T20Is] because Arshdeep [Singh]... I don't want any new guy to come and have the that difficult role of [bowling first up with the new ball] because if they're put under pressure, then we're chasing the game. So, I've always been [like] leading from the front, and I've been working on my new-ball skills, which is helping me," Hardik said. He has taken 69 wickets at 26.43 on average in 87 T20Is.

"My focus is on white-ball cricket now"
Hardik, who last played a Test in August 2018, said his priority now is white-ball cricket, with the ICC World Cup scheduled in India for October-November this year and next year's ICC T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States of America (USA).

"I will come [back] when I feel [it's] the right time to play Test-match cricket. Right now, I'm going to focus on white-ball cricket, which is important, and if time is right and body is fine, I'll give [the long format] a try," said Hardik, who has not played any red-ball cricket since undergoing back surgery in 2019.


"Gill has the game to play all formats"
Impressed with Gill's rise as an all-format player, Hardik concluded: "I always felt that he has the style and technique to play all the formats, and it was not surprising for me. The effortless batting that he can do, not many can. It means a lot for him, as a youngster, to play all formats adds a new dimension to the game."

(With inputs from PTI)