Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans were on the receiving end of an absolute master class from Ruturaj Gaikwad. It was a very different innings from the youngster, considering how all his fifties thus far in the IPL career have all come off 30 balls or more. But in the IPL 2023 opener, he took a different approach, and route, scoring a scintillating half-century.
That’s what prompted the opposition skipper to applaud the Indian batter, and say that “he will do wonders for Indian cricket”. Gaikwad has had a subdued start to his Indian career, with an average of 16, and a strike rate of 120. Pandya further insisted that it was difficult for his team to bowl to him, especially with the array of strokes that he had up his sleeve.
“To be very honest, we all know the player Gaikwad was, the way he was batting, we were finding it very difficult to bowl to him. We can’t get his wicket at all. Some of the shots he played was just too good, it wasn’t bad balls, it was just his class,” Pandya was in full praise at the post-match press conference.
“As a bowling unit and captain, it made it even more difficult. Full credit to him, if he continues this way, he will do wonders for Indian cricket. When the time comes, the Indian team would back him too,” he added.
Even though his bowlers were at the receiving end of the carnage, Pandya’s advise was rather simple: get hit with a smile, and bounce back.
“Some of the shots Rutu played had nothing to do with the bowling. There were some great shots, and backing in our team is there. Get hit with a smile, we just focus on the next ball.”
“We try to keep the environment light. Today was an example that even under pressure, we kept attacking and looking for wickets. It stopped the momentum that CSK had, and we could restrict them from scoring 220-30. That really made the difference for us, even when we lost Kane Williamson to injury.”
The new impact player rule has really had the two captains on their toes, with Gujarat opting to replace the injured Williamson with the up-and-coming talent, Sai Sudharsan. Pandya though, insisted that the rule is only making a captain’s job tough, and is tieing his hands.
"To be very honest, having this impact rule makes my job quite difficult because when you have too many options, you have to pick the right option, and I think because of this reason, someone will bowl less," he said. "I had to just pick and kind of back [my instinct], where I felt that going hard lengths was the plan for me, and it kind of worked, so yeah, some of the bowlers came late but they did the job for us."
All was not hunky dory for the Titans, who lost one of their integral players, Williamson due to an on-field injury. In an attempt to cut short Gaikwad’s stay, Williamson outstretched himself on the boundary ropes only to land on his knee, resulting in an injury. Pandya reckoned that there is not yet a time frame for the Kiwi batter’s return to the setup.
“I just messaged him (Williamson), I’m not sure about the update. After the scans, we will get to know. Right now, there is no time frame, it is knee for sure but we are not sure how long he will be out.”