Want to win the World Cup for India: Hardik Pandya
After clinching his maiden IPL title as a captain, and his fifth title overall, Gujarat Titans skipper Hardik Pandya has stated that his only goal – long-term and short-term – remains to win a World Cup for India.
Hardik capped off a memorable comeback from injury-prone previous seasons with a 4/17 and 34 (30) in the Titans’ seven-wicket win at home in Ahmedabad on Sunday, and said he’ll “give it his all” to bring home a trophy for the country next.
“Absolutely to win the World Cup for India no matter what happens,” Hardik said. “I am gonna give it everything I have. Always been that kind of guy to put the team first. For me the goal will be simple: to make sure my team gets it the most.
“Playing for India has always been kind of [a] dream come true no matter how many games I have played. It has always been a pleasure for me to represent the country. The kind of love and support I have got is only from the Indian team point of view. Long term, short term, I want to win the World Cup no matter what happens,” he added.
Statistically, Hardik has had better luck in the knockouts in the IPL than in world events. He has had a starring role with the bat and the ball in the last three ICC white-ball tournaments but India failed to lift the trophy on all three occasions. His last-over heroics helped India pip Bangladesh in the 2016 T20 World Cup only to lose to eventual winners West Indies in the semis. In 2017, he waged a lone battle for India, making 76 of the team’s 158 as they attempted to chase Pakistan’s 338 while in ODI World Cup 2019 semis, his rescue act with the bat didn’t prove enough against New Zealand.
In IPL though, he’s laid hands on the silverware every time his team made the playoffs – four times with Mumbai Indians before guiding first-timers Titans to glory on Sunday.
“Obviously this will be a little special because I have won it as a captain,” Hardik said before diplomatically adding, “the four that I have won before this are equally special too.
“Winning IPL is always special. I consider myself very lucky that I have played five finals, and have lifted the trophy five times. Obviously this will leave a legacy because we are a new franchise, playing for the first time, and we are champions in the first season. But the four that I have won before this were equally special.”
In a significant shift from his explosive finishing role with the bat, Hardik the captain led from the front with the bat – not just accumulating 487 runs to end the season as fourth-best batter, but also promoting himself up the order and adopting a middle-order role with aplomb even if it meant his season strike-rate dropped to just a shade over 131.
“Any given day I’d take the trophy [more] than me batting at [a strike rate of] 160 or 170,” Hardik said at the post-match presentation. “Team is the most important, whichever team I play for. I have always been that kind of individual. Outside noise does not bother me, and if I have to sacrifice and have a worse season and my team still wins, I’ll take that.
“I’ve always fancied myself as a batter. Batting comes first to me, it’s always going to be close to my heart, so, obviously when we got the auction done, it was clear that I had to bat up the order to guide [the team through the middle overs]. I have been in this kind of situation before, so for my team, I thought that it’s the best position for me to bat, so that all the other batsmen can come and express themselves.”
That said, Hardik also credited the strong bowling unit of Titans and tipped his hat to coach Ashish Nehra for building the resources. “Specifically we both [Nehra and he] lean towards the bowlers,” Hardik said.
Including Hardik himself and Rahul Tewatia’s part-time legbreak, Titans approached nearly every fixture with seven bowling options. “People say T20 is a batters’ game but I have always maintained that bowlers win you matches.
“Because if the batters don’t get a par score, if you have a gun bowling line-up, the bowlers can pull things back. We have always given 10 runs fewer. Even when others have conceded 190, we have gone for 10 fewer. Those 10 runs win or lose you matches in the bigger picture. For me and Ashu pa [Nehra], when we were starting, we wanted to create a strong and experienced bowling unit, so that even if there are times when batters don’t click, you can pull back with the bowling.”