Winning the World Cup is top of Hardik Pandya’s target list for 2023 as he leads a new-look India Twenty20 international team against Sri Lanka, he said Monday. The all-rounder who was appointed captain of the 16-member side, will be without regular skipper Rohit Sharma and star batter Virat Kohli, for the three T20 matches starting Tuesday in Mumbai.

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Both Rohit (as captain) and Kohli will return for the three one-day internationals to follow as India begin preparations to host the 50-over World Cup later this year. India also remain in the hunt to qualify for the World Test Championship final in June, after losing the inaugural edition to New Zealand in 2021.

“The biggest new year resolution is to win the World Cup,” Pandya told reporters on the eve of the Sri Lanka series.

India would try to “go out there and give everything”, he said, adding: “I think things are looking bright.”

The 29-year-old, who led debutants Gujarat Titans to an Indian Premier League crown last year, said he still had ambitions to fulfil. He was restored to the national team early in 2022 after recovering from a career-threatening back injury and said it had been “a magical year for me”.

“Going forward, there is a lot to achieve. I have not achieved anything. There will be multiple World Cups in multiple years, so the goal always will be to win the World Cup. I think from now onwards, the goal will be to win the World Cup,” he said.

Talking about the plans for the calendar year in the build up to the mega-event in October, Pandya said, “Before IPL, we have only six games. We don’t have time to do a lot of things but going forward, we will creating new plans and see which plans stick and work for us. We will make sure everyone gets ample opportunities.

“In my team, I believe that everyone should have a clear idea about their roles and what I expect from them.”

Plans for the World Cup

India, led by Rohit, were soundly defeated by England in the semi-finals of last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, ending their hopes of a first world title since the 2013 Champions Trophy.

After an unsuccessful campaign at the T20 World Cup in Australia, expectations from India to bring back an ICC Trophy will likely be stronger.

Analysing India’s semi-final exit at the event, Pandya said, “You see, I think before the World Cup, I don’t think we did anything wrong. Our template, approach, everything was the same. Yes, in the World Cup, things did not go how we wanted. And I think our approach was not the same, what it was before the World Cup. What we have noticed and told the boys is that just go out there and express, which they will do. And it’s up to us that how we back them.”

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Having faced his own share of injuries and lean patches, Pandya knows a thing or two about what support from the management can do for a player. Elaborating on the same, he said, “What we have said is that we’re going to back you to the core. All the players have that support from my side that I’m going to back them to the core. Who are here, these are the best cricketers in the country, that’s the reason they are here. So, I have to make them believe that, which is a fact as well.”

He added: “For me, it’s important that how can I make them feel that they’re the best of their business. And if I can get that thing done, and can get that confidence in them, then I don’t think that they will have any problem in international cricket. I think they will flourish and have amazing careers ahead.”

Up against Asia Cup champions

Dasun Shanaka’s Sri Lanka outplayed India in last year’s Asia Cup T20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates, but Pandya said the tourists would not have it easy in India.

“We are not looking to settle anything, it’s just that we want to play good cricket,” Pandya said. “Yes, we will make them feel like we’re in India, don’t worry about that, I assure and promise you that they will feel that they’re playing an international team and that too in India. So from my boys and my side, we’re going to be clear.”

He added: “We don’t need to go and sledge them, our body language is enough for them to feel a little intimidated which we will do, I promise you.”

On Rishabh Pant

Pandya also wished Rishabh Pant a “speedy recovery” as the wicketkeeper-batter continues treatment in a hospital in Dehradun for injuries from a horrific car crash last week.

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“What happened is very unfortunate. No one had any control over it and as a team, we wish him all the best. Our love and prayers are always with him and we wish him a speedy recovery. Obviously, he was very important but now everyone knows where the situation stands,” said Pandya.

He added, “There are a lot of people who can get opportunities. If Rishabh would also have been there, it would have made a big difference, yes, because of the kind of player he is. But now that he is not there, it is something we can’t control. Let’s see what the future has kept for us and move forward with it.”

Pandya was also full of praise for Suryakumar Yadav, his vice captain for this series, saying that he deserved to be in the team in 2020 and is glad now that he is fulfilling the sort of promise he had always shown.

You can watch the press conference here.

(With inputs from AFP)