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Hardik Pandya is a smart cricketer, opines Rahul Dravid

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Michael Kasprowicz

India captain Virat Kohli and Pandya stabilised the innings with a 56-run stand before Kohli was sent packing by Ashton Agar for 28.

Pandya ended up making 78 off 72 balls, which included five boundaries and four sixes, before he became Cummins' second victim.

Pandya's knock on Sunday included 5 fours and 4 sixes while Ali hit seven 4s and a whopping 8 sixes in his knock. The key factors in this blueprint are - read the situations accurately, identify the moment to change, hit big shots consistently to begin the process and then dictate terms to the opposition.

The 23-year-old Pandya, who survived a dropped chance by skipper Steve Smith off Agar on 41, once again made it count for India after his 83 in the opening game in Chennai. He felt we needed to attack the spinner.

There was a stage in the game when Kohli and Kedar Jadhav departed in quick succession, leaving Pandya and Manish Pandey, the latter having struggled for runs in the first two games, to take the chase forward. "That time I thought that (Adam) Zampa was bowling and I knew that I could hit a six off him any time I wanted to. If he bats at six, he bats in a particular way", Dravid said. "Obviously the plan was to target the spinners and yeah, it came out pretty well". They have displayed remarkable all-round capabilities but are yet to be termed as genuine all-rounders. "It's a treat to watch them play and the way they play", Pandya said.

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Before turning the heat on with his batting, Pandya provided India with the important wicket of David Warner, who was flummoxed by a sharp off-cuter that took his middle stump. I couldn't just bowl seam up and get whacked. Indian bowlers executed well, we executed poorly.

The recent performances has led to an increased weight of responsibilities on Pandya's shoulders, but he seems unfazed by the test and only considers it a part and parcel of a professional cricketer's life. "I believe Ranji Trophy should be given as much importance, playing for states should be important".

"This concept of "play your natural game", which I hear all the time, frustrates me because there's no such thing in my belief as 'natural game.' It's only about how you play different situations", Dravid, who has been coaching India's U-19 and A teams for over two years now, said. I don't need to be surprised, important to back myself, saw it as an opportunity. India has jumped to the top of the ODI rankings, for now, overtaking Australia and South Africa, but can still slip to the number-two spot if the visitors win the next two games.

The all-rounder, hence, has been a subject of comparison with India legend Kapil Dev, who is regarded the best all-rounder the nation has produced.

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