Enjoying his new role as Gujarat Titans captain, Hardik Pandya on Saturday said his national team comeback is not on his mind and wants to focus on doing well in the ongoing IPL 2022. Debutants Gujarat Titans defeated Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday to move atop the table with six wins from seven games.
The premier all-rounder, who sat out against Chennai Super Kings because of a groin injury, was back with a 49-ball 67 – his third fifty in a row in the tournament. Pandya scored unbeaten knocks of 87 and 50 against Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively in his last two matches.
“I don't think it's my (India) comeback anyway and secondly, I don't focus on my comeback. I focus on the game which I play," Pandya said at the post-match media conference. The 28-year-old made his last appearance for India against Namibia in the T20 World Cup in Dubai.
Since then, he worked to manage his bowling workload post his back surgery only to return to action in the IPL 2022. In the ongoing IPL, Pandya is sitting second in the runs chart behind leader Jos Buttler with 295 runs from six innings at an average of 73.75.
“At the moment, I am playing IPL and will focus on IPL, then will see where the future takes. It's never in my hands now. I focus on the team which I'm playing in. We are doing well and I'm very happy,” he added.
Pandya said he's relishing every bit of his captaincy role for debutants Gujarat Titans. “Captaincy obviously helps. I’m always a cricketer who loves to take responsibilities. I have a bit of understanding of the game having batted for so many years,” he said.
“You're successful because you've an understanding of the game. Having played so many matches, I'm able to use my experience. So far, so good,” he added. The Titans got off to a spectacular start, were 133/2 in 16 overs but they lost wickets in heap in the back-end -- four in the final over -- to settle for 156/9.
“I feel we were 10-15 runs short, they kind of finished very strong. But with the kind of bowling attack, I backed my chances. The wicket had up and down bounce. The back of the length ball was working pretty nicely,” Pandya added.
For KKR, it was their fourth loss on the trot but head coach Brendon McCullum said they're confident to make the semifinals. “The confidence in the batting unit should stay relatively high. We still believe we're good enough to be in the semifinals and be there at the thick end of the competition,” McCullum said.
Chasing 157, KKR were going great guns with Russell on fire and needed 29 runs from the last two overs. But Alzarri Joseph produced a fine final over and dismissed Russell for a 25-ball 48 to derail their chase.
Dejected at his side's loss, KKR skipper Shreyas Iyer said: “The way we started in the powerplay while chasing and even with the ball. We shouldn't have conceded that much in these conditions.”
“Three out of our last four were very close matches. The energy and vibe are high before the game and it is disappointing that we are unable to convert it,” he added.