As the Gujarat Titans made their way into a first Indian Premier League final in their debut season, their captain Hardik Pandya made no secret that David Miller had been a key figure in the team making it past the Rajasthan Royals in the first Qualifier.

The Royals put up a 188 for 6 at the end of the 20 overs on a rainy day at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The innings was powered by Jos Buttler’s 89, and supported by skipper Sanju Samson’s 47 off 26 deliveries.

But it was Pandya and Miller’s 106-run unbeaten partnership that took the Titans through. And the 28-year-old heaped praise on the South African’s performance who was adjudged the player of the match for his unbeaten 68 off 38.

“A lot of people counted David Miller out but for us he was always a match-winner from the time we bought him at the auction. What he did today we always expected from him. But for us it was important to give him the importance, give him that love and give him the clarity as to what we expect from him. And if he fails, it’s okay; it’s just a game,” Pandya said after the match.

“I am generally proud of the way he has lifted his game. He is genuinely a damn good guy. So, I was proud to kind of play with him, and enjoy. Simply he is a wonderful guy. I always wanted good things to happen to him. And it kind of shows if you show love and importance to an individual player, he can flourish and how,” he added.

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While the Titans are through, the Royals are still in contention of making it to the final provided they beat the winner of the first eliminator between Lucknow Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

And, as Sanju put it, they’re keen on making a comeback after a tough day on a ‘sticky wicket.’

“The wicket was a bit sticky, it was too pacy and the bounce also wasn’t even. I just went after the bowling from bowl one, I was a bit lucky to get some runs in the power play. The wicket was a bit tough to bat on, actually. I think we finished off really well to finish with that kind of a total, with those kind of conditions, with that kind of a bowling lineup. It was a great performance by our batters,” he said, adding that the conditions improved for batting in the second innings.

“(We have to) comeback stronger. We’ve been playing some really good cricket throughout the tournament, we played a really good game today also. Couple of runs here and there, couple of extra runs, (a bit) off rhythm for some of our bowlers, but we’ll try to come back and play some good cricket. Getting a good result in this format, I think luck plays a huge role, the toss plays a huge role. So it all comes down to your controlable. Our controlable is to just comeback, come out and express yourself and have a good game.”

The Royals are hoping to reach the final for the first time since they won the inaugural IPL in 2008.