All-rounder Hardik Pandya revealed MS Dhoni and himself were constantly discussing strategy during their 118-run stand that helped India post a commendable 281 on the board after early wobbles in the first of the five-match ODI series against Australia in Chennai on Sunday, September 17.
The 23-year-old Mumbai Indians star hit his highest ODI score of 83 in just 66 balls and swung the momentum back in India's favour after the hosts were reeling at 11 for 3 inside the first six overs of the innings. Notably, Australia pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile had ran through the Indian top-order removing skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Manish Pandey cheaply.
Pandya, Dhoni lead rescue act
Pandya joined Dhoni in the middle when India were at 5 for 87. When the Australians were eyeing more damage, the two batsmen just focused on rotating the strike and did the repair job to good effect. Even a single from the blade of the latter, the former captain of Chennai Super Kings, was cheered by the sea of crowd that had filled the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Dhoni though kept his composure and often walked up to Pandya to guide the young all-rounder. In the 37th over of the match, the latter went berserk, smashing leg-spinner Adam Zampa for three straight sixes. The over cost 24 runs for the Australians and also injected pace into the Indian innings.
Pandya continued to take pressure of Dhoni, but finally gave his wicket away when he tried to smash Zampa out of the stadium in the 41st over. The wicketkeeper-batsman though continued and stitched a 72-run stand with tail-ender Bhuvneshwar Kumar before getting out for 79.
"They [Australia] were on top, and the pressure was there. We [India] lost wickets, and it was important for me to make a partnership with MSD [Dhoni]. We were speaking how we needed to change things up. When me and Mahi bhai were batting we were looking at 230. I will take 280," Pandya said during the mid-innings break on Sunday.
He added: "I was trying to hit out before the Zampa over as well. Generally my plan is hitting straight - I don't care if long-off is there or long-on is there. If I connect well, I know I will clear the boundary."
'Learnt a lot from Dhoni'
Dhoni was under pressure ahead of the recently-concluded Sri Lanka series after his contemporaries Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina were dropped for the limited-overs series in the island nation. However, the 36-year-old proved his worth with some crucial knocks against the hosts.
The World Cup-winning captain continued his fine run with a well-paced innings at his second home -- Chennai.
Pandya highlighted the importance of having Dhoni in the dressing room, saying will continue to learn the nuances of the game from the legendary cricketer.
"It is a pleasure to play with him. I mean, I have learnt a lot from him, still learning," Pandya spoke of his partner in crime.