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Don’t mind coming in and taking the role played by M.S Dhoni: Hardik Pandya

Ahmedabad, Feb 2 (IANS) After leading India to 2-1 series victory over New Zealand in the recent T20I series, captain Hardik Pandya revealed he doesnt mind taking the game deep and playing the role that M.S Dhoni did in the shortest format of the game.

“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.”

“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, and I’ve learnt how to accept pressure and I’ve learnt how to kind of swallow the pressure and kind of make sure the team and everything are calm,” he said in the post-match press conference.

Under Hardik, this was India’s second T20I series win of this year after defeating Sri Lanka at home last month and on Wednesday, he was giving strike most of the time to Shubman Gill so that the youngster could do the bulk of hitting.

“In that way, maybe I have to get my strike rate down. 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 which somewhere down the line Mahi (Dhoni) used to play.”

“I think at that time, 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 just naturally come to me, and I don’t mind (doing it). We’re getting the result we want and it’s okay,” he added.

Hardik is also regularly bowling the tough overs for India in the Power-play since the start of 2023, including the time when he got some swing in the Indore ODI when Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj were rested, to take the pressure of doing the difficult task off Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik.

“I had to bowl with the new ball (in T20Is) because Arshdeep (Singh). I don’t want any new guy to come and have 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.”

With the 2023 ODI World Cup to be held in India in October-November and a T20 World Cup in the West Indies in 2024, Hardik signed off by saying white-ball cricket is his priority right now over playing the longer format.

“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 longer format) a try.”