Hardik Pandya played in five finals of the Indian Premier League and won the title on all occasions. While his first four title wins came for Mumbai Indians, Sunday was an emotional moment for ‘Captain’ Hardik – who led newcomer Gujarat Titans to his first trophy.
This was Hardik’s first time leading a team in the tournament and he led by example. He motivated the team to perform to the best of his ability and also made sure that he performed as well.
Sunday’s final against Rajasthan Royals was one such moment when Hardik took three wickets and then played in with a 30-ball-34, paving the way for the team’s seven-wicket victory.
“I’ve always had the responsibility all season. It gets the best out of me. And I’ve always been someone who wants to lead from the front. So I can set an example and make sure that even if I want my team to function a certain way, I’m more or less the first standard-bearer to make sure they have some kind of person who does it,” Hardik said in the early hours of Monday, a while after the trophy lifted for Gujarat Titans, “So, it makes more sense if I say it and I do it first…”
Gujarat Titans win IPL 2022 title with seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals
On his fifth title win, Hardik said: “This will be special as I was captain this time. The previous four times I won the title were also special because winning the IPL is always special. I consider myself lucky to have played five finals and won the trophy on all occasions. So it’s clear that this will leave a legacy as it’s a new franchise and we’re the champions in the first season.”
Hardik has not played international cricket since last year’s T20 World Cup, but a consistent showing in the IPL has earned him a call-up to the five-match T20I series against South Africa, which starts next month. And he believes that his only goal in the future is to win the World Cup for India.
“It is absolutely to win the World Cup for India, come what may. I’ve always been the kind of guy who puts his team first. So for me the goal will be simple – making sure my team is at their peak and playing for India has always been a dream come true no matter how many times and how many games I’ve played,” he said.
“It has always been a pleasure for me to represent the country. And the kind of love and support I have is only from the point of view of the Indian team. So the long or short term goal is that I want to win the World Cup , whatever happens…’
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Bowling was a key area for the Titans throughout the tournament, and Hardik admitted that both he and coach Ashish Nehra were keen to build a strong and experienced bowling squad that could handle any situation.
“I’ve always believed that while many people say T20 cricket is a batter’s game, hamesha bowlers match jitate hain (bowlers always win your matches). If batters don’t score on an equal footing and if you have top-gun bowling, which we had, then you can pull things back,” he said.
“In games where other teams conceded 190 runs, we made sure we got 10 runs less. In a broader picture, those 10 runs play an important role because you ultimately win or lose through those runs…
“For me and Ashu paa, we made sure to make a strong and experienced bowling unit because if a situation arises where batters can’t score, you can still pull things back. That helped a lot,” Hardik added.
After winning the trophy for the Titans, the television cameras saw Hardik and his wife Natasa – who looked emotional.
“Of course she’s a very emotional person, and she’s happy when she sees I’m doing well. She’s seen me go through a lot of things and she’s kind of seen me get into those tough places no matter what. I don’t talk about that, but she knows how hard I’ve worked behind the scenes,” Hardik explained.
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During the tough times he was out of the Indian team due to injury and inconsistency it was hard for Hardik to come back but his family has helped him a lot.
“My family has always been my strong pillar. My brother Krunal, my sister-in-law Pankhuri, my other brother Vaibhav and a lot of people – my wife and my son – have all been fantastic in making sure I stay in the best frame of mind. When I play it helps me a little bit because I know my family is always there to support me no matter what,” he said.
“My brother cried when I called him, my sister-in-law cried too. Those are tears of happiness and something wonderful. I live on and feed on the love I keep getting from my family…”
The past few months have been challenging for Hardik, but he has managed to silence the critics with his indomitable spirit and fearless cricket. And as the Gujarat Titans theme song suggests, it is also time for Hardik to focus on the Indian team and cement his place. †Ava De!† Bring it on.