'If I was captain, I would have him in any team in the world' - Muttiah Muralitharan backs under-fire Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya scored 19 runs and picked up two wickets in the ODI series vs Sri Lanka.
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India put up a dominating performance against Sri Lanka to win the three-match ODI series by a 2-1 margin. While the usual suspects Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Suryakumar Yadav, stood up, there was one player who failed to perform well for the Men in Blue – Hardik Pandya.
It was expected that the all-rounder will play a match-winning innings lower down the order in the second ODI and help India get out of the jailbreak. But instead, the 27-year-old got out cheaply and could only score 0 and 19 in the two ODIs which he came to bat. While he picked two wickets with the ball, it was expected from Pandya to come good with the bat in hand.
Now, the former Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan has backed the all-rounder, despite a mediocre showing from him in the ODI series. Murali even said Pandya is good and, if he was the captain, then he would have included him always in his playing XI. The former spinner further opined that Pandya is an invaluable asset to the Indian team, given his skills in both the batting and bowling departments of the game.
“Hardik Pandya is a special player. If I was captain, I would have him in any team in the world – an IPL team, an Australian team… any team in the world. Because he has got the ability to bowl at 140 clicks and he can adjust and also bowl slower. Because of the injury, I feel he couldn’t do much,” Muralitharan told ESPNCricinfo.
Muttiah Muralitharan opens up about Hardik Pandya’s role in the team
The 49-year-old also felt that the Indian team cannot expect Pandya to bat through the innings. Instead, he should be used solely down the order so that he can provide some lusty blows at the end of the innings and give India some handy runs while finishing the innings or, in a run-chase.
“He might get out in the first two overs but, if he clicks for 20-30 balls, he would score 50 runs. So that is the expectation from Hardik Pandya. If you make him play 70 balls and expect 90 runs, he would not be the same player,” Muralitharan added.
“It’s like asking Jayasuriya to open and score at run a ball. He won’t be successful. These players can play No. 7 and 8 anytime. Put him in and let him play his own game.”