India captain Rohit Sharma was appreciative of Hardik Pandya's form after his match-winning performance against England in the opening T20I on Thursday night, saying the all-rounder has been "wonderful" all season, starting with the Indian Premier League (IPL).
India, following their Test setback against the Ben Stokes-led side, made a huge statement in white-ball cricket, defeating England by 50 runs in the opening game and signalling their intent for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
Sharma, after missing the rescheduled fifth Test, returned to lead the white-ball side and scored a blistering 24 before the likes of Deepak Hooda (33), Suryakumar Yadav (39) and Pandya (51) took over to guide India to a massive 198 in 20 overs.
Pandya returned with the ball to remove the entire top order (4/33), denying England the opportunity to play their natural game in home conditions.
Sharma said it was an all-round show from the first ball, but lamented his players were "sloppy" while fielding.
"Great performance from ball one. There was an intent shown from all the batters although the pitch was really good so you could back your shots. At no point did we feel we were getting ahead of ourselves, we played cricketing shots," said Sharma.
Sharma added that making the best use of the powerplay overs at the start of the innings had become the mantra of most sides, and it is important to "back your basics" in those crucial overs.
Back to the basics
"Looking at the larger picture, you try to back your basics. You got to make use of the six overs (with the bat). We've spoken about our approach -- sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn't. That's what this sport is, that's what makes it challenging. It's something we have spoken of, and all the players need to buy into it, not just 1-2 players."
Pandya's form right from Match 1 of the IPL 2022 season has become the talking point of Indian cricket, and Sharma said he was mighty impressed with the all-rounder's bowling, especially the variations.
"(Hardik) The way he has prepared himself right from the IPL till now has been wonderful. What I was impressed was...was his bowling. He wanted to do a lot more of it, and he came bowled quick, used variations, got rewards too. Not to forget his batting too," said Sharma.
The skipper added that the way the team utilised the powerplay overs set them on course for victory.
"(Powerplay bowling) It is something we took into consideration. It's why we wanted to bat. At 8 'o clock, there's nip in the air, we wanted to utilise that. You stop them in the powerplay, you have a lot of control on the game."
However, Sharma was not happy with the team's fielding effort and made it known.
"(Dropped catches) We were sloppy in the field. Those catches should've been taken. We want to set a high standard in that department. Not proud of it."