Indore: He has become the cynosure of all eyes with his six-hitting prowess but Hardik Pandya says it's not a skill he has developed overnight as he has been clearing the ropes easily since childhood.
Twice in the ongoing series against Australia, Pandya has seized the momentum for India with his big-hitting abilities.
During the first ODI in Chennai, Pandya had taken leg- spinner Adam Zampa to the cleaners while in the series-clinching ODI here last night, he came up with big shots against left-arm spinner at a crucial juncture.
Asked if his bludgeoning 76-run knock against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final was the turning point for him, Pandya politely made a statement.
"If you want to think that way, you can, I have no problems. I played well in the IPL before that. Last year's IPL wasn't great for me, so I worked hard, and the form came back. And I used to hit sixes before too, it's just that I am hitting them at a higher level now. I have been hitting sixes since childhood otherwise," Pandya told reporters at the post-match press conference.
"So whatever you say, if you say Pakistan changed my game, then so be it I have no problem," he added.
Pandya's 78-run knock on Sunday came at a time when India had lost four wickets in quick time. Further talking about his ability to hit sixes at will, Pandya said he prefers reading the game before making shot selection.
"It's not just about hitting. It's pretty important that I read the game. That time (in Chennai) I thought that Zampa was bowling and I knew that I could hit a six off him anytime I wanted to. That's why I waited till the seventh over and then I got the opportunity to change the momentum and eventually one over changed the momentum in that game," he said.
"I tried and it came out pretty well. That's just my thinking. It's about being positive and backing yourself. If I feel like, I go for it. I read the situation and go for it," Pandya said.
Pandya, who usually bats at number seven after MS Dhoni, came out to bat at number four at Indore.
"It does not make any difference where I bat," Pandya asserted.
"Rather than seeing this as a challenge, I see this as an opportunity to do something nice for the team. When I was told I was going to go out to bat next, I was happy. This is the first time I played so many balls, so it was great," he said.
"The message was always simple. Play your game, however you play. I can play all kinds of innings. Obviously the plan was to target the spinners and it came out pretty well."
With his consistent performances, Pandya is expected to carry the weight of expectations like other star players of the team. However, the all-rounder says he does not think that way.
"I don't think that much. I focus only on the things, which I can focus and right now I am just playing my cricket. I just back myself and if you back yourself, you always come out on top. I mean you can't score everyday but yeah, backing yourself is pretty important," he said.
He also acknowledged the platform provided by openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane with their 131-run partnership.
"The shots which they played were outstanding. Many people have said it in the past and I am again saying it. It's a treat to watch them play and the way they play," Pandya said.
Pandya also dismissed suggestions that the team was under pressure while chasing an imposing 294 yesterday after losing four top-order batsmen.
"I don't think so. I was batting on 40 or something and the equation was also at run-a-ball. We knew if we took the game deep, then the boundary balls will also come, since the margin of runs wasn't much," he said.
"We bat pretty deep, and it was only a matter of spending more time. We actually knew we could get over the line," Pandya signed off.