Hardik Pandya’s back foot is outside off-stump and the front one is in line with it. He leans his upper body forward and back, the knees are bent, the bat is raised in the air, the wrists are cocked. In this position, he awaits the ball to be released. Normally, when batsmen do such premeditated movements, even the shot is premeditated. It could be a paddle scoop, a lap shot or a smear to the leg-side. But admirably, Pandya does no such thing. He is ready for most eventualities, but it’s the helicopter shot that captures the efficacy of the entire set-up.
The open stance allows him to bring the bat down without the worry of the body and the foot impeding the insane downward speed. Then come his wrists — they snap furiously, allowing him to drag the bat at awkward angles to collect the ball and deposit it up and over midwicket.
With that set-up, in the end overs, he now hardly moves either foot. The knees buckle, the weight transfer is handled by leaning either the upper or lower body, tailored to the demands of the shot, and he lets his hands and eyes do all the work. What makes Pandya’s stance all the more astonishing is that he still keeps all other shots open. Of course, there exists an innate preference to go to the onside with this approach, but because of the supple wrists and the way he manages to bring his bat down at angles, he is still able to dish out the airy square drives. That comes from the fact that he stays low, almost crouches a bit, which does affect the way he plays the bouncers, but the bowlers haven’t quite had the firepower to trouble him enough for him to lose sleep over it.
In a sense, he has combined two pearls of wisdom from two former legends, seldom used by anyone else. Majid Khan, the style artist from Pakistan, had once demonstrated to his county teammates that he could play without moving his feet – just leaning forward or back was enough. Martin Crowe had talked about how in T20, he would situate himself around or just outside off stump. Pandya uses both those approaches to pull off his helicopter and other delirious hits in the end overs.
The man himself attributes the shot’s success to the mental notes he has made watching MS Dhoni in the nets.
“I have been working on that shot (helicopter),” Pandya said after executing it in a league stage game versus Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in IPL12.
“After playing that shot I was kind of proud, I was expecting MS to come and say ‘good shot’. Generally people like to bowl at the stumps against me. It’s a shot which is not easy but I have seen MS hitting them so many times. He is an inspiration and we try to copy a lot of shots which he plays and this is one of the shots which I’ve copied from him and quite happy that it came out well.”