The Gujarat Titans extended their lead in the Indian Premier League table to three points after a resounding nine-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur on Friday and captain Hardik Pandya had plenty to be happy about after arguably the strongest statement of a win for the defending champions so far.
The Royals, winning the toss and opting to bat, were bowled out for a meagre 118 in 17.5 overs. The defending champions then got to the total for the loss of just one wicket, with 37 balls to spare.
Titans’ spin maestro Rashid Khan was adjudged player of the match for his 3/14 after four overs. Also instrumental was Afghan teenager Noor Ahmad, who picked up two wickets for 25 runs in three overs.
Skipper Pandya later asserted that the duo’s chemistry and understanding with each other makes it a lot easier for him to handle the team.
“Honestly, there’s not much (conversation I have with them),” Pandya said during the post-match presentation.
“I let Rashid handle that business with Noor. They speak the same language and I think nobody is better than Rashid to communicate with Noor and tell him what’s good and what’s not. That’s something that has been fantastic,” the allrounder added.
“There’s not much I have to do. The only time (say anything is) ‘do you want slip, move short fine-leg to mid-wicket?’ That’s the only job I have to do when they’re bowling. Otherwise, it’s a standard field. They’re confident, they’re very clear in what they want to do. When I see that something is not right, then we have a conversation. But it helps that more often than not, that they know exactly what to do.”
Along with the Afghan duo’s prowess is the skill behind the wickets of Wriddhiman Saha.
“I always found Wriddhy as one of the best wicketkeepers I’ve every played with,” Pandya said about the 38-year-old. “It’s not easy to pick Rashid and Noor the way they’ve been bowling, at the speed at which they’re bowling. It looks like its a thankless job, but the way he adds that value, and does the job he does for us, it’s tremendous. Someone still has to stop the ball if the batter misses.”
Chasing a small total, the Titans were quick in the approach with Saha (41 off 34) leading the charge while Shubman Gill held steady at the other end. Once Gill was dismissed for 36 after 35, Pandya came into bat and played a blistering 39 off 15, with three fours and just as many sixes.
It was a much more aggressive knock than what Pandya had put up during the Titans’ previous match – a low-scoring loss to Delhi Capitals.
“I made some bad judgement errors in the last game,” he said.
“Today, my job was half done by the time Shubman got out. But at the same time, I got a lot of time to think about what happened in the last game. I never shy away from taking responsibility. Or even when I make a mistake, I accept it. Acceptance is the biggest key in life to learn, and what happened in the last game and what happened today could be my learning.”
The Titans currently sit on 14 points, having won seven of their 10 matches so far this season. They lead Lucknow Super Giants and Chennai Super Kings, who are in joint-second with 11 points.
The defending champions’ next assignment is a home match in Ahmedabad, where they host LSG.