Gujarat Titans stormed into the final of the Indian Premier League on Tuesday, defeating Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets in the first qualifier at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. On a tricky surface, it was not easy to chase down 189, but with David Miller’s unbeaten 68 and captain Hardik Pandya remaining not out on 40, Gujarat Titans romped home, quite comfortably.
In the final over, Gujarat required 16 runs and Miller looked at ease as he hit Prasidh Krishna for three consecutive sixes to seal the deal for the tournament’s new entrant.
“I am genuinely proud of the way he has lifted his game. He is genuinely a damn good guy. I was proud to play with him, enjoy it. He is simply such a wonderful guy, I always wanted good things to happen to him,” Hardik said about Miller in the post-match media interaction.
Talking about how Miller, who until last year was with Rajasthan Royals, has emerged as a match-winner for the Titans, Hardik said, “It kind of shows that if you show love and importance to a particular player, he can flourish and how! A lot of people counted David Miller out, but for us, he was a match-winner from the time we bought him in the auction. It was important to give him that importance, clarity from what we expect from him. If he fails, it’s okay, it’s just a game…”
On a personal front, this edition of the IPL has been quite satisfying. He hadn’t played competitive cricket for nearly six months and coming into the tournament as the captain of the Gujarat outfit, it was a challenge for Hardik to stay calm and perform. While he impressed with the willow, amassing 453 runs from fourteen games, Hardik also bowled quite a bit and picked up five wickets.
His calm and composed attitude as a captain has often been compared to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but Hardik is happy to have built an image of his own. “Mahi bhai has played a big role in my life. He is a dear friend, a brother and a family to me. I have learnt a lot of good things from him. But for me, it was more about being individually strong, which I am proud of myself, and how I have been able to manage all the parts,” he said.
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“Before taking up captaincy also, I took all the situations with a cool head. If you think cool headed, you usually make better decisions. For me, it has been important in both cricket and life that it is better to think for 10 extra seconds rather than rushing things.”
Talking about the criticisms that he faced over his injury woes and form in the past, Hardik said, “As far as other talks are concerned, what to do? People will say what they have to. I think with Hardik Pandya, news sells more. I laugh it off…”
On Sunday, the Gujarat outfit will feature in its maiden IPL final and as the captain of the side, Hardik is excited to play at the Narendra Modi International Stadium. “It’s going to be fantastic, such a massive stadium, our home ground, home state. I am assuming we are going to get a full packed crowd supporting us there, very excited, looking forward to playing the final…”