regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Bond well & be brave, the Hardik Pandya way

With 10 victories in 14 league matches, the Gujarat Titans topped the standings before making the final in their maiden appearance

Indranil Majumdar Published 28.05.22, 01:27 AM
Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya File Photo

An anxious Hardik Pandya sitting in the Gujarat Titans dugout, biting his nails and hoping the thrilling finish goes their way has been a common sight of IPL 2022.

And after every exciting climax, he remembered to thank his teammates. “I keep joking in the dressing room that God is telling us ‘you guys are good, I’ll help you’. It’s happening so often that I fear we may run out of luck in the knockout games. We keep a very chilled atmosphere and everyone is stepping up,” Pandya said after Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan had pulled it off with 22 runs in the last over against Sunrisers Hyderabad.


Pandya’s fears didn’t come true. With 10 victories in 14 league matches, the Titans topped the standings before making the final in their maiden appearance with a controlled chase of 189 against Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 1.

Pandya has instilled a sense of camaraderie in the dressing room, which encourages a positive attitude. With captaincy came responsibility and Pandya has been quick to embrace it. He had the freedom to build a team on his own terms. He identified individuals who could come into prominence in this format, harping on utility players while shunning star culture.

Take the case of Wriddhiman Saha. A scintillating century for Kings XI Punjab in the 2014 final against Kolkata Knight Riders notwithstanding, he was hardly given a long run in his previous franchises as most assumed him to be suited for the longer format. But Pandya saw the potential in Saha to succeed and gave him an extended run at the top of the order.

His fearless gameplan has also reflected in his captaincy. “He is someone who always makes brave decisions, is confident and clear in his mind about what he is going to do,” ace spinner Rashid Khan said recently.

This probably has remained the secret to his success.

None were so optimistic before the start of the IPL as Pandya struggled to regain fitness after being sidelined again with a lower back injury following the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year. He worked hard with his personal trainer in Baroda for a long period to attain full fitness.

He realises how much difference his being an all-rounder than just a batter makes to the side. “Hardik didn’t wish to compromise on anything. He was keen to be 100 per cent fit to be an all-rounder. He wanted to continue with his bowling too,” someone in the know of things told The Telegraph.

In between whenever he was in Mumbai, he practised at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Being managed by RISE Worldwide, formerly known as IMG Reliance, Pandya is one of the eight cricketers in their fold. It entitles him to use their facilities despite no longer being associated with Mumbai Indians.

Being a senior player at Mumbai Indians helped him evolve as a captain. But it was the opportunity to bat higher up the order at the Titans which was attractive. He could read the situation different which added clarity to his role. The way he handled the chase in Qualifier 1 at No.4 showed his maturity and renewed confidence.

Pandya’s fitness, especially his bowling, has remained a contentious topic in Indian cricket. He has decided to manage his spells and bowl whenever the team needs him. Even two overs could prove to be beneficial.

From a forgotten player with an uncertain future, Pandya’s transformation has been phenomenal. So much so that he is now being seen as captaincy material for India too.

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