Gujarat Titans – It is challenging to be constantly scrutinized by the public and come back stronger each time. It’s also challenging to come back from a long, nagging injury and poor form and eventually emerge as a match-winner. In short, being Hardik Pandya is not easy.
Hardik had not played any form of cricket in nearly five months when he entered the Indian Premier League as the captain of Gujarat Titans. He had never bowled before a few weeks ago. But, in front of a crowd of 1,04,859 on Sunday, the Titans captain demonstrated why he is still regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the game.
Hardik, shrugging off the pressure of playing in the final, took three wickets (three for 17) to restrict Rajasthan Royals to 130 for nine before chipping in with a 30-ball 34 as Titans chased down the total with 11 balls to spare. Titans defeated Royals by seven wickets to win their first-ever IPL title – and that too on debut!
With the league stage of the tournament held in Mumbai and Pune and the qualifiers in Kolkata, the Gujarat Titans had not played a single match at ‘home’ before the final. They had only looked at the wicket on Saturday evening. So there was no home advantage, and as fan expectations skyrocketed, Hardik made sure that the Titans were not overwhelmed by the pressure of the big-ticket final. He set a good example.
After winning the toss, the Royals chose to bat on a rather used and worn-out surface, which did not favor them. Despite the Royals scoring 31 runs in the first four overs thanks to the opening partnership of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler, things changed quickly after the youngster from Mumbai dragged one to Sai Kishore at deep square-leg off Yash Dayal for 22 off 16.
With the opener gone, one would have expected Buttler and captain Sanju Samson to step up, but they fell short. Captain Hardik played a masterstroke by bringing in Rashid Khan early, knowing that both batters struggled against the star spinner, and it paid off.
The Royals’ run-flow dried up as they tried to play safe against the Afghan spin ace, and they only managed 44 runs in the PowerPlay. Despite Buttler’s successive boundaries to Lockie Ferguson, who clocked 157.3 kmph, the fastest ball of the tournament, Gujarat Titans responded in style, with Hardik removing Samson with his second ball of the game. Royals needed a good partnership between Buttler and Devdutt Padikkal, but both fell rather quickly, leaving the team in shambles at 60 for two in 8.2 overs.
While Rashid dismissed Padikkal for two runs, Pandya dismissed Buttler in three deliveries. Buttler surpassed David Warner to become the second highest run-scorer in an IPL season, trailing only Virat Kohli’s 973-run haul in 2016.
After 14 overs, the Royals were at run-a-ball as Ravichandran Ashwin, and Shimron Hetmyer failed to read Rashid and Hardik. Hardik then caught and bowled Hetmyer, and with the big guns gone, the Royals had to rely on the young Riyan Parag, whose late cameo helped the team reach 130 runs.
Rajasthan’s bowlers needed early wickets to defend a low total. While Prasidh Krishna struck out Wriddhiman Saha for five runs, Boult struck out Matthew Wade with only 23 runs on the board.
Shubman Gill (45 not out, 43b, 3×4, 1×6), on the other hand, took advantage of two reprieves to keep the Gujarat Titans in the hunt. Yuzvendra Chahal kept Gill in single digits while Hetmyer blew a late-night opportunity.
Gill and captain Hardik put on a 63-run third-wicket stand. While Gill held the innings together, Hardik played smartly, hitting a four and a six off Ashwin in the 12th over before succumbing to Chahal.
When Hardik finally left, the Gujarat Titans needed only 45 runs. David Miller (32 not out, 19b, 3×4, 1×6) tore into the Royals bowlers, and Gill sealed the win with a six off Obed McCoy, with Gujarat Titans fans cheering loudly for the home team. okbet sports betting
This was the Royals’ first final since 2008, and they wanted to pay tribute to their first captain, Shane Warne, who died in March. Members of the 2008 championship team were invited to cheer on the Royals, but it ended in heartbreak.
Leading Titans was Hardik’s first captaincy role, and the seasoned campaigner dazzled when it mattered most, proving once again that when the going gets tough, he gets going.