Hardik Pandya delivers on the big stage, proves doubters wrong

By assembling a squad of experienced performers, Titans’ team management aces the campaign; Warne’s legacy will be celebrated regardless of Royals’ loss

By assembling a squad of experienced performers, Titans’ team management aces the campaign; Warne’s legacy will be celebrated regardless of Royals’ loss

Hardik Pandya corrected a dip in his stock price with a memorable IPL 2022 campaign. He delivered the title to Gujarat Titans as a first-time captain, performed with bat and ball, and overcame all injury doubts.

The exclamation point came in the final here against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday when an all-round show (3/17 and 34) earned him the ‘Player-of-the-Match’ award.

Shrewd captaincy 

His shrewd captaincy through the tournament was particularly impressive, given that this is Hardik’s first attempt at a major leadership role. Hardik’s appointment as skipper was a surprise in itself, as the Gujarat outfit — making its maiden appearance in the IPL — was expected to choose a more experienced hand for the job.

There were also questions surrounding his fitness, which had forced him to give up bowling duties in the last couple of years. Hardik had the answers in the summit clash — bowling at a good pace, and keeping a tight line outside off to prise out the key wickets of Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Shimron Hetmyer.

In assembling a squad filled with experienced performers like Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Shami, the Gujarat team management aced this jigsaw puzzle. The franchise was also rewarded for backing South African batter David Miller who came into his own after struggling in his last five seasons.

For Royals, a triumph was viewed as the ideal tribute to the late Shane Warne who led the team to the title in the inaugural 2008 edition. Warne’s legacy, however, will be celebrated regardless of this loss.

Royals opener Jos Buttler had a dream run, finishing as the highest run-scorer of the tournament. With 863 runs, Buttler became the second-highest run-scorer in an IPL season, behind Virat Kohli (973 runs in 2016). Rajasthan leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal picked up just one wicket in three playoff outings, but the tournament’s highest wicket-taker played his part in the team’s run.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), under a new captain in Faf du Plessis, exceeded expectations by entering Qualifier 2. The dream of laying their hands on a maiden trophy, however, remains unfulfilled.

By qualifying for the playoff round, Lucknow Super Giants — the second new team in the competition — had plenty of positives to take from this debut.

It was a season to forget for IPL’s most decorated sides, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. India captain Rohit Sharma and West Indian Kieron Pollard were below par, which contributed heavily to Mumbai finishing at the bottom of the table. Chennai, affected by M.S. Dhoni reclaiming the captaincy from Ravindra Jadeja, did not do much better.

The tournament has always given the ideal platform for new stars to emerge. This time around, it was uncapped pacers Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh who shone bright and earned their maiden India call-ups.

A terrific unbeaten 112 in the Eliminator against Lucknow Super Giants gave RCB’s Rajat Patidar pride of place as the only uncapped player to hit a century this year. Middle-order batter Tilak Varma provided the silver lining to a disappointing Mumbai show.

Left-arm fast bowlers Mohsin Khan (Lucknow Super Giants), Mukesh Choudhary (Chennai Super Kings) and Yash Dayal (Gujarat Titans) did their reputations a world of good.

The festive atmosphere created by the 1,00,000-odd spectators at the Narendra Modi Stadium for the final ensured a grand finish.

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