During the IPL match between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians, Hardik Pandya, during his innings of 32 off 15 balls, hit some breath-taking boundaries. None was more eye-catching than the 'helicopter shot' – made popular by Mahendra Singh Dhoni – which he employed to his benefit. This wasn't the first time either. He had played the same shot earlier against Chennai Super Kings, with the inventor of the stroke standing behind him and looking on helplessly.
Now, Pandya has revealed that he went to the master's room to know how he felt about the all-rounder's version of this legendary stroke. Apparently, Dhoni approved it. But whether he considers Pandya a better exponent of the shot, we can only guess.
However, Pandya isn't the first player to dare to copy this Dhoni special. The first time we saw its imitation was way back in 2012 during a World T20 match. And that too happened, right in front of Dhoni. During India's round-robin match against Afghanistan, the latter team came out to chase a target of 160 set by the men-in-blue.
The openers for Afghanistan were Mohammad Shahzad and Nawroz Mangal. Shahzad, a self-confessed fan of MS Dhoni, decided to take the attack to the Indian bowlers. During the third over of Afghanistan's innings, Shahzad played his own, slightly clumsy version of his idol's signature stroke. This helicopter shot didn't go too far above the ground and much squarer than the usual one played by Dhoni. Even the follow-through wasn't the same. But it was a close enough imitation to earn a boundary for the Afghan and also for him to hold the pose and let cameras capture the moment.
What made his stroke all the more amazing was that Shahzad had announced before the match that he would be playing it. After he executed this shot, the cameras panned to MS Dhoni's face, although it remained as unmoved as ever.
Eventually, Shahzad could manage only 18 runs and two boundaries apart from this one. Afghanistan fought hard but fell short by 23 runs. However, the Afghan had already increased his fan following and got fans of Dhoni to take notice.
Pandya or Shahzad: Who does it better?
The key difference between Shahzad and Pandya is that, while the former is rather plump in his physique, Hardik is lean and fit. No wonder that the Mumbai Indians all-rounder is able to play this shot much better than the Afghan keeper-batsman. The huge sixes that the Baroda lad has hit in IPL using this unique stroke would make even the most loyal Dhoni fan take notice. But, one cannot take away the fact that it was Shahzad who showed the courage and conviction to execute this shot. It might well remain the most famous shot of his career.