T20 World Cup 2021: Hardik Pandya acknowledges responsibility on his shoulders as a finisher in MS Dhoni’s absence

Dhoni is playing the role of Team India’s mentor in the ongoing T20 World Cup.

Hardik Pandya | GettyIndia all-rounder Hardik Pandya on Monday (October 18) acknowledged that he will have a big responsibility on his shoulders as a finisher of the team in the absence of legendary MS Dhoni at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

Hardik’s selection for the showpiece tournament was under the scanner as he couldn’t bowl a single over during the recently held second phase of IPL 2021 and still struggling to bowl. However, the team management decided to persist with him considering his ability to absorb pressure and finish games with the bat.

"The biggest so far, I will say, because this time I don't have Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Everything is on my shoulders -- I like to think that way because it gives me an added challenge. It is going to be exciting, a cracker of a tournament," Hardik told ESPNcricinfo.

While Dhoni had retired from international cricket last year, he is playing the role of Team India’s mentor in the ongoing T20 World Cup.

See Also: PICS - 'Mentor' MS Dhoni joins Indian team at first net session in Dubai

Pandya also opened up on how the former skipper helped him during the difficult time when he was suspended by the BCCI for his comments made on a TV show.

"MS was someone who understood me from the start: how I function, what kind of a person I am, what are the things I don't like, everything. When I was picked for the New Zealand series [in January 2019, after the suspension was revoked], initially there were no hotel rooms [for Pandya in New Zealand]. But then I get a call, saying, "You just come. MS has told us, 'I don't sleep on the bed [in any case]. He will sleep on my bed and I will sleep on the floor.'" He [Dhoni] was the first person who has been always there. He called me around the same time I had the conversation with Akash [Ambani]."

"He knows what kind of an individual I am. He knows me quite deep. I am very close to him. He is the only person who can make me calm. When all this happened, he knew that I needed support. I just needed a shoulder, which he provided multiple times in my cricketing career. I never saw him as MS Dhoni the greatest. For me, Mahi is my brother. I respect and admire the fact that he was there when I needed him the most," he added.

Hardik Pandya further hailed Dhoni as his life coach.

"In a certain way, yes. We have lovely conversations. As I said, only Mahi can make me understand certain things. Sometimes if I get strong-headed and I go into that zone and I believe some things, I have to call him and say, "Yeh soch rahan hoon, kya chal raha hai, batao." [This is on my mind. What do you think?] Then he will explain. So, yes, in a lot of ways he is a life coach," he said.

"Staying with him, obviously, you learn to be mature, you learn to become humble. I have learned a lot by watching him. He never loses his cool."

Team India will begin their T20 World Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan in Dubai on October 24. Before that, the Men in Blue will take on England and Australia in warm-up games on October 18 and October 20, respectively.

(With ANI inputs)


By Salman Anjum - 18 Oct, 2021

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