Shikhar Dhawan‘s hundred was great but according to former opener K Srikkanth, it was Hardik Pandya’s whirlwind 27-ball 48 that proved to be “game-changing” in India’s 36-run win over Australia in a World Cup match. The opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan (117) and Rohit Sharma (57) set the tone, while skipper Virat Kohli blasted a 77-ball 82 but Srikkanth feels it was Pandya’s innings which made the big difference in India’s massive 352 for five total against Australia on Sunday. “I think Dhawan’s 117 was great but the key innings for me was Hardik Pandya,” Srikkanth, who was an integral part of India’s 1983 World Cup winning team, wrote in his column for the ICC.

“His knock of 48 from 27 balls made all the difference because it ensured India set 352 instead of 312. The rate he scored at added so much impetus and carried India to a greater score. It was probably the game-changing moment of the day.” Srikkanth feels Pandya’s position is of outmost importance in the team.

“… they promoted Pandya to four and that gave him great confidence to take the game away from Australia, they lost control when he was in the middle,” he wrote. “Pandya is also weapon Australia don’t have – an all-rounder of the highest quality. England have a box of them, while we have Pandya in what is probably the most important position in the team. “He did not take wickets but that did not matter, as Jasprit Bumrah took three. He is at the top of his game and loves it here, I expect him to end up with so many wickets at the end of the tournament.”

India will next face New Zealand on June 13 and Srikkanth believes the Kiwi bowlers can prove to be a handful for India. “It’s now full steam ahead to New Zealand and that will also be a very tough match. The conditions always play a big part against them and I think the toss will be so important,” he wrote. “I think New Zealand’s bowlers are a step up on Australia’s and are likely to be a handful. If Trent Boult gets his rhythm right, he will get wickets and so seeing how he plays will be fascinating.”

Srikkanth also praised Dhawan for his restrained innings. “We are playing intelligently with both bat and ball and no-one showed that more than Shikhar Dhawan against Australia,” he wrote. “He said in his interview that he was felt calm and that he showed restraint and it is hard to disagree with him. “He was not looking to clear the boundary, he played low-risk, sensible cricket and I think that was very clever.