IPL 2019: Last seven months were the toughest of my life, says Hardik Pandya

After powering Mumbai Indians to a confident win against Chennai Super Kings, the all-rounder said his focus is on playing the IPL and winning the World Cup.

Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya has put controversy behind him, with eyes now only for the IPL and the World Cup.   -  Vivek Bendre

India and Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya termed the last seven months as the toughest period of his life and dedicated his Man-of the-Match award to those who stood by him.

Hardik's unbeaten 8-ball 25 and three wickets powered MI to an emphatic 37-run win over the Super Kings at their home ground.

“It’s been seven months that I’ve hardly played games. They weren’t easy and I didn't know what to do. I’ve just batted and batted. I want to improve my game every day. It’s a fantastic feeling batting like that and making your team win,” he said.

READ | IPL 2019: Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard shine as MI snaps CSK's winning run

The 25-year-old was handed a suspension by the BCCI and sent back midway from the Indian team’s tour of Australia following some unsavoury comments he made on women on Koffee with Karan earlier this year. The suspension was lifted later pending an enquiry.

“I was out with injury and then some other controversy happened. I want to dedicate this Man of the Match to my family and friends, who stood with me in the toughest times,” Pandya said at the post-match presentation ceremony on Wednesday night.

“Now my only focus is to play IPL and make sure India wins the World Cup,” the right-hander added.

READ | Controversy can help Pandya scale new heights in career, says Kohli

Mumbai's West Indian batsman Kieron Pollard underlined Pandya’s vitality to the team’s playing combination, calling him 'phenomenal'.

“(Hardik) is phenomenal. For us it is just about encouraging him and giving him that opportunity. He practices like that. The Pandya boys have been batting well, so being the more experienced guy, I have to take the initiative and try to do well whenever I come in.”

Pandya and Pollard together made 29 runs in the last over of the MI innings, with CSK all-rounder Dwayne Bravo getting the short end of the stick.

READ | Behrendorff eyes World Cup berth through IPL

MI captain Rohit Sharma was delighted with the result.

“We don’t want the headache of winning every game at the back-end of the tournament. It becomes very tough. I thought 170 was a fighting total because there was something in the pitch,” he said.

“If we knock a few wickets with the new ball, we’ll be in the game. That’s probably why I can’t find a game-changing moment in this 40 overs.”

CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni felt many 'things went wrong' for his side.

“We started well, were right on the mark for the first 10-12 overs. Then, a few catches were dropped, a few misfields, the death over bowling wasn’t great. We don’t have bowlers who hit the deck, it was slightly tough on them,” Dhoni said.

READ | At Wankhede, law of averages catches up with Dhoni

Dhoni said he would prefer a one-on-one meeting with his players rather than a team meeting.

“We do have one-on-one plans, we needed to know where we could cut-off the boundaries, which batsmen to target, a boundary less or two could have made a difference to a 10-12 run over or a 7-run over. We needed to build some momentum, but we need to know when to plan for those,” he said.

“It is a tough thing - this so-called momentum, it doesn’t really matter, a good start from the bowlers will make things tight, once you set the tone, the game goes along in that flow.”

On injury concerns plaguing the team, Dhoni said, “We don’t have a few players. Bravo has a hamstring injury, David Willey is not there, he has his own problems. Lungi Ngidi is not with us as well, we will have to look at the pitch and then decide on the right combination.”