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IND vs SL 2022-23, 3rd T20I: ‘My life becomes very easy when experienced players are there’

IND vs SL 2022-23: Hardik Pandya’s success as a T20I leader continues, as he is yet to lose a series. Meanwhile, he has credited the experienced players in the side, who make life easy for him in the role.

Captaining a young side could be tricky, but Hardik Pandya, who led India to a 2-1 series win over Asian champion Sri Lanka, feels it was not that difficult as he just had to ensure that they “belong at this level”. The three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka saw the Indian set-up begin a new era under the leadership of Pandya.

“It’s not that difficult. My life becomes very easy when the experienced players are there. I don’t say much to them because they are here. After all, they have done many good things in their lives,” Pandya communicated after leading the team to a series win in Rajkot on Saturday.

The Indian team had none of the three senior batters Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli. At the same time, the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were also not there for various reasons.

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India began the series by edging out a settled Sri Lanka side under Dasun Shanaka by two runs in the first game in Mumbai. In the second T20I in Pune, India fell by the wayside, chasing a stiff 207. At the same time, in the series decider, Suryakumar Yadav led the show with an unbeaten 112 from 51 balls to propel the hosts to 228/5, a target that proved too much for the Lankans, who folded for 137 in 16.4 overs.

Backing his young group, the new India skipper said they would make mistakes, but it’s about accepting and learning from it. “Managing is not tricky, but yes, it’s a young group. They will make mistakes. They will learn from it, something we have emphasised: once you make a mistake, you learn from it. Acceptance is critical in this sport. If you don’t expect it, things go very far,” Pandya voiced.

“But, when a young team is there, the only thing I can help them is giving them confidence, how to make sure they are at a level when they are playing here, they [his boys] feel that they belong here. That is very important in international cricket. In this group, it’s a magnificent journey. Youngsters are willing to learn, making my journey very easy,” added Pandya.

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‘SKY’s clarity makes him so explosive’
All praise for Suryakumar’s explosive century, Hardik said: “Today, it felt like Sri Lanka against Surya. It makes my life very easy. I always mention that someone like Surya is vital to us in white-ball cricket. The way he plays some shots and changes the game breaks the bowler’s morale and helps the other batter.”

If Pandya had any particular word for Surya regarding how he batted, Pandya said: “You don’t tell him anything. Surya, with the form he’s playing and his clarity, you don’t need to speak to him. He is always very clear about his plans, which is why he’s successful in this format. He doesn’t doubt his ability. Wherever he’s in two minds, he always comes and has a chat. I don’t think anyone has to say anything to him.”

‘Tripathi showed great intent, seized momentum’
Electing to bat, India had a jittery start losing Ishan Kishan in the first over. Still, after that, Rahul Tripathi seized the momentum with a 16-ball 35, and Pandya quickly acknowledged the Maharashtra batter’s knock. “Special mention to Rahul Tripathi as well, the kind of intent he showed that is so natural to him. It can change the momentum of the game,” Pandya acknowledged.

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“If you see the first couple of overs, the ball was doing something, and people from the outside thought there’s something in the wicket. But, because of his intent, all of a sudden, the ball stopped moving, they changed their length, and then it was all about as if they were chasing the game. Overall, it was terrific from Surya and Tripathi,” continued Pandya.

On Team India’s aggressive approach, he said: “It’s only sometimes that we will play aggressively in terms of hitting. There might be a case where we do the same thing, but we score 150. But what is important is the intent. You look for a boundary, but when a good ball is there, you respect that ball. But, if you have a defensive mindset, even if a bad ball is there, you cannot put that away.”

“The wicket was suitable for the batters once it got old. But, it’s more about the intent and signs of aggression that we showed that was important on a tricky wicket. It just makes a difference of 10 runs which can be decisive overall,” gauged Pandya.

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‘Nehra made a big difference to my captaincy at GT’
There has been no looking back for Pandya since he led Gujarat Titans (GT) to an Indian Premier League (IPL) triumph in its maiden appearance last year, and the new Indian T20I skipper credits his franchise coach Ashish Nehra for making “a big difference” to his captaincy.

Coming back from a long injury layoff, the premier all-rounder was made the Gujarat skipper in a bold move by the first-timers. But Pandya, who had led only once at the senior level in a tour game against Australia, proved his detractors wrong and led by example. “The kind of coach I worked with has been critical from Gujarat’s point of view. Ashish Nehra made a big difference in my life because of our mindsets. We might be two different personalities, but we have similar cricketing thoughts,” Pandya conveyed.

“Because I was with him, it added value to my captaincy. It helped me to get exactly what I knew. It was just about getting that assurance. Once I got that, the awareness of this game I always knew. It was all about knowing and backing what I knew already. It has helped me,” measured Pandya.

Before the home series against Sri Lanka, the Indian selectors overhauled the side after the Rohit Sharma-led team failed to win the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia last year, losing to eventual champions England in the semifinal. Before this series, Pandya had led India’s T20I side whenever Rohit was unavailable. “I’ve never led in junior cricket as well. When I was Under-16, I led Baroda. After that everyone thought that I should focus on my game. Since then, I’ve not led [a side],” Pandya concluded.

(With inputs from PTI)

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