Gujarat Titans stormed into the Indian Premier League final on Tuesday, beating the Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets in the first qualifier at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. It wasn’t easy chasing 189 on some tricky ground, but with David Miller’s unbeaten 68 and captain Hardik Pandya not finishing 40, Gujarat Titans went home quite comfortably.
In the final over, Gujarat needed 16 runs and Miller looked at ease as he hit Prasidh Krishna three straight sixes to seal the deal for the tournament’s newcomer.
“I’m genuinely proud of the way he’s taken his game to the next level. He’s a really damn good guy. I was proud to play with him, enjoy it. He’s just such a great guy, I’ve always wanted good things to happen to him,” Hardik said of Miller in the post-match media interaction.
Speaking of how Miller, who played at Rajasthan Royals until last year, has emerged as a match winner for the Titans, Hardik said: “It shows that if you show love and importance to a certain player, he can flourish and how! A lot people charged David Miller but for us he was a match winner from the moment we bought him at auction it was important to give him that importance clarity of what we expect from him if he fails it’s ok it’s just a game…”
Hardik: A lot of people judged Miller, but for us he is always a match winner
On a personal level, this edition of the IPL was quite satisfying. He hadn’t played competitive cricket for nearly six months and when he entered the tournament as captain of the Gujarat outfit, it was a challenge for Hardik to keep calm and perform. While impressing with Willow, racking up 453 runs from 14 matches, Hardik also bowled quite a bit, taking five wickets.
His calm and collected demeanor as a captain is often compared to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but Hardik is happy that he has built his own image. “Mahi bhai played a big part in my life. He is a dear friend, brother and family to me. I learned many good things from him. But for me it was more about being strong individually, which I am proud of, and how I was able to master all the parts,” he said.
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“Before I became captain too, I took all situations with a cool head. When you think coolly, you usually make better decisions. For me, both in cricket and in life, it has been important to me that it is better to take an extra 10 seconds think instead of rushing things.”
Speaking about his past criticism of his injuries and form, Hardik said: “What to do with other conversations? People will say what to say. I think with Hardik Pandya, news sells more. I laugh it off. ..’
On Sunday, the Gujarat outfit will be featured in the first IPL final and as the captain of the team, Hardik is delighted to play at Narendra Modi International Stadium. “It’s going to be fantastic, such a huge stadium, our home ground, our home state. I’m assuming we’ll get a full crowd supporting us there, very excited, looking forward to playing the final…”