In 2012, after he had hit his second Test century at Edgbaston, West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin unfolded a piece of paper saying: "YEH, VIV, TALK NAH." That was Ramdin's way of hitting back at former West Indies captain Viv Richards, who had been critical of him for constantly failing to deliver. Richards, who was at Edgbaston, had said he had questioned Ramdin only after he realised that the latter had lost confidence in his ability.
Last week, another West Indies legend, Michael Holding told ESPNcricinfo that Hardik Pandya was not yet good enough as an international allrounder. Holding pointed out that, as a bowler, Pandya lacked the consistency and control to create the pressure to get the wickets and become the man your captain would throw the ball to as a frontline seamer.
On Sunday at Trent Bridge, Pandya broke the back of England's batting with his maiden five-wicket haul. But he did not take any sheet of paper out of his pocket, scribbled on which was: "YEH, MIKEY, TALK NAH." He did not need to.
If anything Pandya, usually a jump horse, went about quietly galloping over England. Pandya had replaced Jasprit Bumrah from the Radcliffe Road end about an hour into the afternoon session. Bumrah and Mohammed Shami had wasted helpful conditions in the half hour before lunch, allowing Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings to their best opening partnership of this series, which had come at a fair clip.
Ishant Sharma immediately swung the momentum back in India's favour, mainly by bowling fuller with a straighter seam. Shami was failing to find his rhythm and Bumrah was not bowling with a straighter seam. Both of them were also not bowling full. But post lunch, Ishant brought the focus back and India, according to CricViz, swung the ball 30% more compared to pre-lunch.
When Pandya was given the ball, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were just settling down, but they were not on a sure footing. There was a huge responsibility on Pandya, unlike, in the past because R Ashwin had a stiff hip and was off the field for more than an hour post lunch. In the past, Pandya would be the towel that other fast bowlers could use to mop their sweat. He would bowl a short spell of a few overs, rarely creating any dent.
And if he failed with the bat, which is not uncommon, the question clearly then was: why is Pandya in the team when he actually affects the balance? Why not play a specialist bowler or batsman? That is exactly what Holding wanted to know. It could have been any other allrounder, but the question would be the same: is that person actually being effective in the role given to him?
As the fourth bowler, in hospitable conditions for seam bowling, Pandya had a key responsibility in this innings. The first ball suggested he was up for the challenge. The delivery that forced an edge off Root was on a good length and seaming away, delivered from close to the stumps. There was some unnecessary kerfuffle about the catch, taken low by KL Rahul at second slip, but there could not be any dispute about how Pandya had hit the right length immediately.
As Aleem Dar, the third umpire, upheld the on-field umpire's decision, India captain Virat Kohli raised a cry of joy, as did several other India players. The architect of the wicket, Pandya, remained quiet, smiled, with hands crossed in front of the chest - as if he were posing for a magazine photo shoot.
Pandya's best wicket was that of Bairstow, which he earned by pushing the length much fuller from wide of the crease. Bairstow's trigger movement was to go back in his crease, but the ball was moving away with the seam and took the edge. Pandya's thinking mind came to the fore when he banged in a short ball to surprise Chris Woakes, who gloved to be brilliantly caught by debutant Rishabh Pant using quick reflexes to pouch it even while his momentum was taking him another way.
Admirably, Pandya sustained the discipline and kept pressure on England ball after ball in the spell lasting half-a-dozen overs. It came on the back of the 17 overs he had bowled at Lord's, the most he has bowled in an innings in his 10-Test career. It meant Pandya was a willing learner.
Off the 36 balls delivered on Sunday, Pandya pitched 30 on full or good length (83%), a massive improvement compared to the first two Tests. At Lord's, Pandya hit 67 out of 103 on full or good length (65%), which was 13% more than at Edgbaston, where the count was 31 out of 60.
One man Pandya should thank is Ishant, who was constantly in his ear reminding him about the bowling plan. Before each over began, Ishant walked up to Pandya to have a word. At one point, Ishant used both hands to touch his temples, asking Pandya to not lose the focus and the rhythm he had built. This after Pandya had taken Woakes' wicket. Having seen Sam Curran run away with the prize at Edgbaston in the second innings when England were on the mat at 87 for 7, Ishant did not want India to get distracted.
When Pandya got his fifth wicket, it was Ishant who got the ball form the umpire and handed it to Pandya in the team huddle. Pandya flicked it across his long fingers as he waved to Trent Bridge. The fans gave him a hearty applause.
Watching from the Radcliffe Road end, Holding too gave an appreciative nod to Pandya. "Moving conditions," he said. Holding was not being mean. Holding is a plain-speaking man, not emotional usually. He calls it as he sees it. Before today, he had seen Pandya not creating any impact. On Sunday, Pandya did, and Holding enjoyed it.
Pandya might say he never heard what Holding had to say. If he did, he should be the first to acknowledge he was right. And Pandya will tell Holding: he is here to stay.