Hardik Pandya has grown by leaps and bounds since his India debut in 2016, both as a batsman and as a bowler. With 14 wickets in nine games, Hardik is the current holder of the Purple Cap in IPL 2018. It was understandable that he was beaming after playing a lead all-round role in Mumbai Indians’ 13-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday (May 6) at the Wankhede Stadium.
“It is a good thing. It was not my effort. Koshish nahi thi (I didn’t try for this). But the cap is there and if you take wickets… I am happy,” he said.
Krunal, his older brother, hit a vital 12-ball 31 in the previous game against Kings XI Punjab, and followed it with crucial contributions with both bat and ball on Sunday. His improvement has pleased his younger sibling no end. “A lot, to be honest,” Hardik said of Krunal’s progress. “I have seen his growth because he has always played with me. The way he improved his game after a lot of hard work, to be honest, I am myself surprised. It is because of the confidence which he is carrying. He is showing that he belongs here, which is fantastic for him and the team.”
Hardik bowled two overs in the Power Play and conceded only eight runs before coming back to bowl the 18th over, where he gave away just six runs. Crediting his mindset for his bowling success, Hardik said, “Obviously, death (bowling) is difficult but one thing I have understood about T20, even if you are bowling well, in odd games, you will go for runs. I have been bowling well, even Bumz (Jasprit Bumrah) is bowling well. Everybody is bowling well but if you see in all the games, someone has gone… In some games, they have gone for 40-45 which happens in the T20 format. But if you ask me about difficulty, obviously Power Play and death is difficult because you have restrictions in the Power Play and in the death, they are just there to swing.”
Hardik didn’t start IPL 2018 well with the bat but has two good scores back-to-back. Mahela Jayawardene, the head coach, had spoken about players like Hardik needing to evolve with time to stay relevant but Hardik was not too worried about his batting. Asked if he was practising harder, he replied, “I am not doing anything. It is just that some day, it comes off. I have stopped practising. I am someone who thinks differently. I am actually just being positive from my mind. It’s all about one hit. You score one six, all of a sudden the momentum, everything changes. Obviously, if people bowl well, they are also here to play the game. And they are also one of the best bowlers, if they bowl I have respect and I can’t do anything. No one can do anything. I don’t think that much. If I am positive in my mind, it comes off.”
Mumbai are known to push hard at the back end of the league phase, and wins in their last two games against Punjab and now Kolkata have now given them some breathing space. “It feels good. The team is quite positive and we have to think that we are going to make it,” Hardik pointed out. “Otherwise, no point of playing. As a team, we believe that we can do this and we have done it in the past, though it is a bit difficult to do it. I don’t like anything which comes easy, I like difficult things. And this is a challenge I’d love to take. If it comes off, I will be really proud of myself and the team.”