One of the finds of IPL 2022 has been the upsurge of Hardik Pandya- The captain. After the auctions, Gujarat Titans were disregarded and predicted to finish as the wooden spoon holders. It was evident after their auction that they lacked the venom in their middle order. But shutting down the naysayers, Hardik Pandya decided to step up and take control in his new Avatar. The onus was on him, and it was time to show the world his mettle as a skipper. Batting at three for someone like Hardik is entirely out of his comfort zone and against his natural gameplay. And so it made the spectators astounded, as he was anchoring the innings, taking the game deep, holding their batting together, and then going all guns blazing at the death. He trusted the likes of Tewatia, Miller, and Abhinav to finish the innings off, and they delivered like never before. Backed rookies like Sai Sudarshan and Yash Dayal, and they came good at times.
Being under the fitness scanner and struggling with a dip in his form for a while, the cricket world was eager to watch Hardik back in full flow. And he came back in some style. Hardik, in the first few matches, was bowling at full throttle. He was clocking 140Kmph regularly, and fans could not contain their excitement. But it was cut short as that groin strain came in. But he was willing to put his hand up and take those challenges head-on. He was brave with certain decisions and had flexibility in utilizing the kingpin, Rashid Khan. There were no set plans, and he was ahead of the game most of the time. He even asked Rashid to bowl in the powerplays. It was clear from the outset that he wanted Shami and Lockie to weather the storm. He asked them to hit the deck hard and bowl fast. He rotated his bowling resources effectively, with excellent match awareness and game reading.
Even his post-match interviews were so refreshing. He had a sense of calmness and showed great maturity as a skipper, evident from words like, “We win as a team, and we lose as a team. We do not point fingers at anyone just because we lose”. They seemed to have the spirit that a champion team possesses. They were closing games from positions where no one gave them a chance. That game won by Miller was a prime example of the atmosphere they had created. In most crunch & crisis moments, GT had people putting up their hands and getting the job done. The collective team effort to win the matches from the jaws of defeat showcases the atmosphere and positive leadership imparted upon which this team is stimulated and cultivated.
Gujarat Titans were the first team in the IPL 2022 to seal the playoff spot. They are now poised to finish in the top two in the group stages. It is a massive feat, considering it’s their debut season, and no one gave them a chance at the beginning. The think tank comprising Ashish Nehra, Vikram Solanki, and Garry Kirsten does deserve applause for shaping them into a killer unit. They would want to finish off the league stage on top and carry on the momentum into the playoffs. You have seen in the IPL how crucial momentum is heading into the playoffs. They have a well-rounded team. Playing the qualifiers at Eden should suit them. With Eden having complimenting carry for the bowlers, of late, they would be backing their quicks to get the job done. The Nehraji-Hardik duo will hope that they can make it big and play under a packed home crowd coming into the finals.
With more than 340 runs in this year’s IPL, Hardik – the batter, has made a solid statement to the Indian selectors that he can play in that WC side as even a pure batter. Hardik looked solid batting at three. He has shown a different dimension as a batter that India hasn’t explored yet. Batting at three and steadying the ship isn’t something that we relate to Hardik, but he has shown that range this year. Hardik would want to finish the IPL on a high note and get that call up to the national side for T20s against Proteas.
The most engaging phase of Pandya’s career is all set to commence. With India looking for captaincy options in the near future, Hardik has thrown his hat onto the selection table. The two prominent contenders for India’s white-ball captaincy post-Rohit are Pant and KL. If this IPL is anything to go by, it is fair to say that Hardik looked better than the two. He looked sorted, was willing to take risks, and backed his players to the core. More importantly, his game wasn’t affected. If Hardik can keep himself fit and if he has a cracking T20 WC, there won’t be any surprise if selectors think on those lines. A fit and inform
Hardik is priceless for India. The amount of options he opens up for India in terms of team combinations is invaluable. 1.38 Billion Indians would be yearning for an in-form Hardik to take that flight to Australia in October 2022. Presently India’s answer to all the woes ends with an in-form, fully fit Hardik Himanshu Pandya.