India vs Pakistan: Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja justify selection with individual moments of brilliance

Whenever we watch a show, it is in our human nature to wait for something unexpectedly amazing and beautiful to happen. We are never satisfied with however good the show may be. We always wait for that single moment of brilliance, that element of surprise and the thrill of the unknown that would sweep us off our feet. It is these moments that make the show worth watching and sets it apart from other shows. Something similar happened in the India-Pakistan clash at Birmingham on Sunday. Although, the stage was lit up by superb half-centuries from each of the top four Indian batsmen, it was Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja who emerged as the show-stoppers with their individual moments of brilliance.

The emotions and sentiments have always been tremendous regarding India-Pakistan encounters. Whenever the two sides have met each other in a match, we have always witnessed something spectacular. The reason is the political history between the two countries that gives birth to a sense of rivalry between the fans and the players of the two nations. What makes the contest more intriguing is India’s dominance over Pakistan in ICC tournaments. Although Pakistan have been in quest for their ‘Mauka’ to beat India in World Cups since its inception in 1975, they had something to brag about in the Champions Trophy as they led their arch-rivals 2-1 ahead of Sunday’s clash.

However, the Indian team snatched away the bragging rights from their neighbours in this tournament too, as they leveled their record to 2-2 after a mammoth 124 run victory over them. All thanks to some brilliant batting effort from the Indian top four of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, each of whom made their way to brilliant half-centuries. However, the match wouldn’t have been that interesting without the crucial yet entertaining contributions of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja.

Generally, no one can talk about anything else when Yuvraj smashes a quick fire fifty or Virat anchors the innings with a big knock. For everything seems to be secondary as compared to innings played by them. Yet, Pandya’s unbeaten 20 off just six deliveries  — that included three towering sixes off Imad Wasim in the final over, overshadowed all of them to become the main highlight of the Indian innings.

The cameo from Pandya was like an unexpected climax of a movie that would put the viewer in awe of that moment. We think that the movie is about to end but suddenly something unexpected happens in the climax that leaves us spellbound with that magic. Hitting three consecutive sixes is definitely no child’s play. But this lad has done it time and again in the Indian domestic circuit. Playing cameos late in the innings is nothing new for this talented young lad who plays for the Mumbai Indians. He had done it a couple of times in the recently concluded IPL. And he carried that form with him to England to show the world what he is capable of doing on the big stage.

The exploits with his willow didn’t seem to be enough for him. So, there he was ready with his right arm medium pace to rattle the Pakistani middle order. He bowled with good pace at good lengths and derived just enough movement from the surface to trouble the batsmen. It was a bit unlikely of him to bowl at consistent lengths. For, his aggression adds to his inconsistency sometimes. He has often accounted for expensive spells in the past as he ended up bowling a lot of short pitch stuff. The Pakistani batsmen might have planned to target him due to his relative inexperience at the international stage.

However, to their utter surprise, they found him bowling at constant nagging lengths. The result was two cheeky wickets picked up by mounting pressure. Pandya accounted for Imad Wasim, who hit a delivery bowled at short of good length straight to Kedar Jadhav at short cover. He certainly made it a night to forget for Wasim as Pandya took him for three sixes with the bat first and then dismissed him for a duck with his bowling as well. And then it was Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed’s wicket that served as the icing on the cake for Pandya. It was a delivery any seamer would be proud of: a perfectly induced edge of a perfect length delivery that went straight to the wicket-keeper’s gloves. And one should not forget his well-judged catch on the boundary to dismiss a well-set Azhar Ali on a day when fielders from both the sides had shown some sloppy work.

At the same time, Ravindra Jadeja seemed to have other ideas. He started it off with a superb catch at point to dismiss Babar Azam and then followed it up with the wicket of Ali, who miscued a slog sweep to be caught by Pandya, who was having a dream of a match. Everything, including both the catch and the wicket, seemed to be pretty normal as compared to the standards of Jadeja.

In fact, a match without any special fielding effort by Jadeja is like a cult Bollywood movie without a dance number. You may like the movie but you would also want the dance number just for the sheer fun. However, Jadeja ensured that it wasn’t going to be the case this time. The real pressure was created by Pandya, who had tied the Pakistani batsmen down with his consistent line and length. Shoaib Malik tried to dab the ball to point and run for a single. He was sent back by his partner Mohammad Hafeez in just about the right time. However, only that much time was enough for Jadeja to do what he does best.

He hit bull’s-eye from yards out at a difficult angle and gave Malik no chance to return to the crease. Thus, Jadeja provided the perfect dance number to what was a perfect performance by the rest of the Indian team by then. He didn’t stop there and went on to claim the wicket of Hafeez in the same style as he claimed that of Ali. Jadeja returned with identical figures of 2-43 along with Pandya.

The two all-rounders delivered on the faith showed on them by skipper Virat . It should be remembered that they were selected in the playing XI ahead of senior players like Dinesh Karthik and Ravichandran Ashwin. And with this performance they have just earned their places in the first team for the next couple of matches. Although Virat does believe in the ‘horses for courses’ theory, these two players seem to be the first names on the team sheet in every playing condition. For, they are not the horses fit just to run on a particular course. But they are made for each and every course. They are the ‘Jack of All Trades’.

(This article originally appeared on Firstpost on June 05,2017)

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