Hardik Pandya said he is a bowler’s captain after Gujarat Titans hammered Sunrisers Hyderabad by 34 runs on Monday (May 15) and became the first team to qualify for the playoffs of the Indian Premier League 2023. The defending champions still have a game to go, but with nine wins in 13 matches, Gujarat Titans have already confirmed their spot in the top two.
“Very proud of the boys, two in two (making it to the playoffs twice in a row). The boys put their hands up and in challenging situations and we rightly deserve the playoff spot. There will be expectations and for me it was important to focus within the group,” said Pandya.
“We ticked a lot of good boxes, we made a lot of errors but we were always there in the game and tried to stay consistent. Bowlers are very close to my heart. Sometimes batters take a lot of credit, for me I will always be a bowler's captain and ensure they get due credit they very much deserve.”
Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma picked up four wickets each, but Shubman Gill stole all the limelight with his maiden IPL hundred. The right-hander slammed 101 off 58 deliveries, studded with 13 fours and a six.
He put on 147 runs for the second wicket with Sai Sudharsan (36-ball 47), but the other nine batters could only manage 27 runs between them. The Titans were cruising at 131 for 1 after 12 overs but could only get 57 runs in the next eight overs, thanks to Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5/30).
“I made my IPL debut against SRH and got my first hundred against them, so life has come a full circle. Hopefully, many more to come,” said Gill, who now has 576 runs this season, making him the second-highest run-getter in the competition.
“It's all about the bowlers and situation and I don't dwell much on my last innings. It is important to focus on the situation in front. The six off Abhishek Sharma (Gill’s Under-19 and Punjab teammate) was the most pleasing thing for me. I told him that if you bowl to me, I'm gonna hit you for a six.”
Hyderabad managed to pull things back in the second half of the first innings but Shami and Co. killed all their momentum inside seven overs. Shami (4/20), Yash Dayal (1/31) and Mohit (4/28) wreaked havoc with the new ball and reduced SRH to 49/6 in no time.
Heinrich Klaasen (44-ball 66) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (26-ball 27) managed to drag the game and ensured Hyderabad didn’t get bundled out. The former brought up his second fifty of the season and has been the only consistent batter for SRH in IPL 2023.
“We were in the game at the halfway mark but when you lose four wickets in the powerplay, it becomes difficult. Klaasen is a great player and I'm very happy for him, the world can see the class and power he's got. The rest of us haven't assisted him. It's tough for him to be on the losing side after performing the way he has,” said Aiden Markram.
The Orange Army looked solid on paper and were one of the favourites going into the tournament but things didn’t turn out as many expected. Most of their players didn’t turn up and on top of that, the team management also made too many tactical blunders.
They still have two more games remaining - against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians - but can only reach to 12 points even if they win both these encounters.
“A lot of pride for us to play for. We'll try to give some opportunities if we're allowed to. It'll be nice to finish off the tournament in good spirits but unfortunately, we haven't been good enough in the tournament this year,” said Markram.