Hardik Pandya, in his first official media interaction as Gujarat Titans captain on February 1, had preferred to keep his bowling fitness for the IPL “a surprise”.
However, more than Hardik the bowler or the middle-order batter, it is Hardik the captain that has emerged as one of the biggest surprises of IPL 2022.
Leading a major team for the first time, Hardik’s captaincy has been pivotal in helping the Titans mark its maiden IPL campaign by finishing at the top of the table in the league phase and booking a berth in the final at Ahmedabad on May 29 with a clinical win over Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday.
So what has worked for Hardik the captain? He appears to have ticked all the boxes that make an individual an ideal captain for a cricket team.
Solid support staff
Hardik — along with a solid support staff in head coach Ashish Nehra, assistant coach Gary Kirsten and director of cricket Vikram Solanki — deserves credit in creating an ensemble that relied on multiple match-winners.
Instead of getting pulled down by leadership pressure, Hardik has carried the additional responsibility with aplomb.
Not only did he open the bowling on numerous occasions, he also created a new role for himself with the willow at No. 3 or 4. The manner in which he has embraced the new role seems to have rubbed off on his teammates.
Besides, Hardik’s field awareness and bowling changes have been on the mark. In the contest against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 23, he asked the pacers to use the short-ball ploy while defending a total of 156 as Titans won by eight runs.
Hardik, the skipper and player, has grown in confidence as IPL-15 has progressed. The win over Royals on Tuesday, when he combined with Miller to pull off a remarkable chase of 189, was proof of that.