Legendary batsman VVS Laxman opined Hardik Pandya should play the 'finisher' role in the Indian cricket team after India missed a late flourish in their 21-run loss to Australia in the fourth of the ongoing five-match ODI series in Bengaluru on September 28.
Pandya was once again promoted to the No. 4 spot in Bengaluru after his exploits in the third ODI on Sunday, September 24. The big-hitting all-rounder had hit a 72-ball 78, mixing caution with aggression, much to the delight of captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri, who had architected the change in batting order in Indore. [4th ODI report: India lose despite solid Rohit-Rahane opening stand]
The 23-year-old had curbed his natural instincts for most part of India's successful chase of 295 in Indore and even won the praise of U-19 and India A coach Rahul Dravid.
Pandya fails to repeat Indore magic
However, on Thursday, Pandya fell after making a 40-ball 41 in chase of a mammoth 335, leaving a lot for the lower-middle order. The Mumbai Indians all-rounder also lost the battle against Adam Zampa, as the latter had the final laugh after being hit for two consecutive sixes earlier in the innings.
Manish Pandey (25-ball 33) and Kedar Jadhav (69-ball 67) did all the hard work by stitching a 61-run stand for the fifth wicket, but the dismissals of the two set batsmen in quick succession put too much pressure on MS Dhoni, who walked in when 48 runs were needed off 26 balls on Thursday.
Dhoni, who had played quite a few crucial innings after coming up the order in the recent past, was struggling to get the big ones India needed towards the end. The diminishing finishing abilities of the wicketkeeper-batsman was evident as he played quite a few dot balls before getting out for just 14.
"Manish Pandey at No. 4, MS [Dhoni] at No. 5, Kedar Jadhav at No. 6 and Hardik Pandya at No. 7 [will be the ideal batting order]. There will odd occasions when you need to be flexible. Today was one such occasion. But then both the team management and Virat [Kohli] have to ask themselves 'if the asking rate goes to 13, who is the man who can play the big shots at the end?'," Laxman said after India's loss in Bengaluru on Thursday.
He added: "Hardik in the end, he is the right guy for the finisher's job. He is one who can come in and straightway hit the big sixes."
The former batsman, who represented India in 134 Tests and 86 ODIs, also shed light on how Pandey and Jadhav can be used to put pressure on the spinners in the middle overs and that there is no need of sending Pandya ahead of the two to do the job.
Brett Lee lauds Pandya
Meanwhile, Brett Lee, who was also part of the post-match show on television, heaped praise on Pandya for his fearless approach in the ongoing series.
"We saw the shots when he [Pandya] came in. He hit the ball for six. He only had faced a couple of balls and he wanted to get in among the runs. He is a fearless cricketer and that's what makes him a prized player in the team," Lee said.
Meanwhile, Team India, who have an unassailable 3-1 lead in the ongoing rubber, will look to bounce back when they take on Smith's men in the final ODI on Sunday, October 1 in Nagpur.