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India's new 'finisher' making bright start

Young allrounder Pandya adds to credentials as India's 'new Dhoni' with devastating knock against Bangladesh

Hardik Pandya's reputation as India's new 'finisher' is continuing to gain traction after the allrounder smashed an unbeaten 80 in his side's thrashing of Bangladesh in their Champions Trophy warm-up at The Oval on Tuesday night.

Pandya has only played seven ODIs but the 23-year-old looms as an important part of an India side looking to defend its 2013 title, and his 54-ball knock against the Tigers, which included six fours and four sixes, took his team to a total of 7-324 and underlined his capabilities at the back-end of an innings.

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That prowess was witnessed in India's ODI series against England in January, when he made key late contributions of 40no, 19no and 56, while in the Indian Premier League, he was unbeaten in nine of the 16 innings he played and piled on 250 runs at a strike-rate of 156.25.

"It's nice to get the role of finishing the game," Pandya said after the Bangladesh match. "It's not easy but I'm liking it; whenever I finish the game it gives me the confidence for the next game.

"It's not that easy to come in and play naturally. You need to adapt to the situation, the weather and everything. So it's a difficult role but I'm enjoying it."

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Of course, Pandya is following in the footsteps of India's finest-ever finisher, former captain MS Dhoni, who remains a teammate of the youngster and, even a month out from his 36th birthday, another key cog in the India wheel.

And while Dhoni's output has lessened somewhat in recent years (his 1,083 runs since the beginning of 2015 have come at an average of 40 – some 10 runs below his career mark), it's the advice of the World Cup-winning skipper that has helped Pandya assume the mantle in his stead.

"I have taken a lot of advice from 'Mahi Bhai' (Dhoni)," he said during the IPL.

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"During the series against England, I had the opportunity to talk to Mahi Bhai often and I took a lot of suggestions from him regarding improvement on my batting as well as bowling.

"Playing as a finisher in the death overs in either a one-day international or in a T20 match is very tough; it becomes a totally mental game at that time.

"Dhoni gave me some priceless suggestions as he said to calculate the remaining runs and overs left while going into bat.

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"But at the same time, his suggestion was not to look at the scoreboard after every delivery while batting.

"He also gave tips on another thing … make an assessment of the bowlers.

"This helps to take possession on the pitch after going to bat."

India captain Virat Kohli described the young allrounder's performance against Bangladesh as "outstanding" (he also took 1-2 from 1.5 overs), meaning his likely inclusion at No.7 creates somewhat of a selection dilemma for their opening Champions Trophy match against Pakistan on June 4 at Edgbaston.

Do India go with two spinners in Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja? Or do they back their impressive pace attack and include three of Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar?

Whatever the final selections, there will be some high-quality cricketers warming the bench for a team that has flown somewhat under the radar ahead of this tournament.


Champions Trophy 2017 Guide


Squads: Every Champions Trophy squad

Group A: Australia, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh.

Group B: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.


Schedule


1 June – England v Bangladesh, The Oval (Day)

2 June – Australia v New Zealand, Edgbaston (D)

3 June – Sri Lanka v South Africa, The Oval (D)

4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)

5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)

6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)

7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)

8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)

9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)

10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)

11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)

12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)

14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)

15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)

18 June – Final, The Oval (D)


19 June – Reserve day (D)


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