Ace leg-spinner Rashid Khan lauded captain Hardik Pandya’s leadership and performance after he led Gujarat Titans from the front to set up a a comfortable 37-run victory against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday.

During his blazing 87-run knock, Pandya smashed eight fours and four sixes in his unbeaten 52-ball knock to help the Titans score 192 for 4 after being put in to bat at the D.Y. Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai. Rajasthan made only 155-9 in reply off 20 overs to hand Gujarat their fourth win in five games.

As a result, Gujarat Titans, led by Hardik Pandya, sit comfortably on the top of the Indian Premier League points table with eight points in five games.

According to Rashid Khan, Pandya, who is the second highest run-scorer in the tournament with 228 runs in 5 matches at an average of 76, has been leading from the front with inspirational performances and is also going out of his way to create a positive team atmosphere that has helped Gujarat Titans get off to a fantastic start in their debut IPL season.

“The way he (Hardik) has led the team, the way he has kept the team environment, inside and outside the field has been amazing so far,” Rashid said at the virtual post-match press conference.

“He (Hardik) is someone who always takes that brave decision, always has confidence and he is someone who is very clear in mind on what he is going to do.

“This is an important thing as a captain when your mind is clear, and you take right decisions, the result will take (care) by itself,” added Rashid.

During his first stint as captain of an IPL side, Pandya seems to be relishing the responsibility as he resumed playing as an all-rounder and bowling his full quota of four overs after being in and out of the Indian team set-up. However, it was the clarity of thought in decision-making during captaincy that Rashid credited Pandya for.

“You take right decisions with confidence, that is something which makes him the best and he has been delivering the best so far and leading from the front - (be it) batting, bowling and fielding,” said Rashid.

After being awarded with the Player of the Match trophy, Pandya spoke about an unfamiliar territory he finds himself during the post-match presentation. He said, “I am not used to batting this long. It is two games in a row that I have batted 15 and 17 overs. But I like it. It gives me time.”

“I can calculate and take the right risks. I think in the last game it didn’t come off how I wanted but today I made sure that I had a sense of approach where I was ready to take on bowlers.”

He continued, “Captaincy is always fun. Be the flagbearer of the team. The team is gelling well. I wanted all of us to be happy for each other’s happiness. That is working well for the team.”