After captaining Gujarat Titans to the Indian Premier League title in its maiden season last month, Hardik Pandya had said his next target is to win a World Cup with the national side.

With another edition of the T20 World Cup coming up in Australia, Hardik will have the same in mind when he leads the Men in Blue during a two-match T20I series against Ireland beginning Sunday.

During a media interaction on Saturday, the all-rounder explained how each game will be crucial for the team and should be treated with the same intensity as the World Cup final.

“The first thing I told this group is that this is a challenge - mainly mentally because it is easy to say that we are playing against Ireland, but I don’t want that mindset in my team. When you are playing for India, it’s a matter of pride and if we want to win the T20 World Cup, from hereon, each and every match will be important and it is important that we play them like a World Cup final."

“These matches will help us get better. If you work hard every day, eventually you will get better in the longer run and that will help the Indian team. That’s something I told the boys that it does not matter who our opponents are, we have to focus on every game and consider that this is our biggest match to get better.”

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With the red ball team busy preparing for the Test against England, Hardik will lead the limited-overs side, with VVS Laxman taking over as the head coach in the absence of Rahul Dravid.

“The conversations between me and the coach have been simple. He is on the same path where we want to make sure the attitude and approach is the same as we play in any other game or maybe a World Cup game. He is here to make sure that the culture and the pathway towards the World Cup, which is set by Rahul Sir and Rohit Sharma, will be the same and we're going to be following that.”

In the five-match T20I series against South Africa at home, India fielded an unchanged final eleven and Hardik indicated that while the team management wants to give opportunities to youngsters, at the same time, it wants to field its strongest eleven. “There will be situations where there will be a couple of (debut) caps given, but more than anything, it is about making sure that when we go into the park, we have the best eleven playing. That will be the focus,” Hardik added.

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The stand-in captain also lauded India’s bench strength. He said, “The way the team has shown its character and the way it played explains the bench strength of Indian cricket. So, even if unfortunately something happens to a player, there is always a back-up.

“There are so many options in the Indian team, where people are still vying for spots, and players are breaking doors to make it to the team. Nothing can be more satisfying than this and the way they are performing is a big thing for Indian cricket.”

Most Indian cricketers haven’t played in overseas conditions in a while, but Hardik admitted that in terms of approach, nothing will change in Ireland. “If we talk about approach and culture in the team, it’s the same. It’s just that we are playing in different conditions and it’s a bit cold here,” he said.