All-rounder Hardik Pandya is riding high on success after leading an unfancied Gujarat Titans, debut team, to a title win in the world’s most valuable T20 franchise tournament. Hardik’s is yet another success story in Indian sport where a normal middle-class boy has defied the odds to carve out a niche for himself.
Much before being Hardik Pandya the “India star”, he was a normal Baroda guy, an unknown face on the domestic circuit, who went unsold in the IPL 2014 auctions. But luck did favour him in the 2015 auction when he was bought by the Rohit Sharma-led MI franchise for his base price of Rs 10 lakh. From 2015 to 2021, Hardik scored 1,476 runs at a strike rate of 153.91 along with taking 42 wickets and was a vital part of MI’s title win in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 editions, respectively.
PANDYA THE CHAMPION
Before IPL 2022, Pandya had featured in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final on four occasions with the Mumbai Indians and had finished on the winning side in each of them. Hardik’s team capped off a dream campaign in its maiden season by lifting the Indian Premier League title with a seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in the final at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium. Thus, he became the first player whose IPL journey began as an unsold player in 2014 and went on to lead a team to the title win.
Pandya, who had won the trophy four times with Mumbai (2015, 2017, 2019, 2020), also won it with Gujarat Titans, going past MS Dhoni who had four titles to his name. (2010, 2011, 2018, 2021).
Hardik Pandya also equaled Anil Kumble and Rohit Sharma as he got the man of the match award in the final. He became the third IPL captain to seal the MOM award in an IPL final. Kumble had finished with 4 for 16 in 2009 final for RCB against Deccan Chargers, while Rohit had won the award following his 26-ball fifty for Mumbai Indians against CSK in 2015 final.
LEGENDS HAIL HARDIK
In the wake of the Titans’ triumph at their home ground in Ahmedabad, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said Pandya would be a worthy choice to follow in his footsteps.
“When you have leadership qualities, it automatically opens the door for honours at the national level to be able to captain the Indian national team in the near future,” the batting great said.
“The way he has led the team, the way he has got them together, the way he has got them to gel together means he has got leadership qualities,” he told Star Sports.
“Not just my estimation, but everybody’s estimation. This was an aspect of his game which nobody had too much information about.”
The national side are currently led in all formats by Rohit Sharma, who was appointed earlier this year after Virat Kohli’s ODI sacking, but at 35 he is unlikely to be a long-term captain and is being rested for a home series against South Africa in June.
Rohit’s five-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians had a disastrous season, finishing bottom of the table.
DREAM COME TRUE
A hard-hitting middle-order batsman and a fast bowler, Pandya has played 11 Tests, 63 one-day internationals and 54 Twenty20 matches for India.
A back injury kept him out after the T20 World Cup last year but he proved his fitness with 487 runs and eight wickets in 15 IPL matches to earn a recall for the five-match Twenty20 series against South Africa beginning on June 9.
He could be given his first taste of national leadership in two T20s in Ireland later in June, according to Indian media reports.
Pandya said he had “always enjoyed responsibility” and “it kind of gets the best out of me”.
His next goal, he told reporters after the IPL victory, was “absolutely to win the World Cup for India no matter what happens.
“Playing for India has always been a dream come true, no matter how many times and how many games I have played. And the kind of love and support I’ve got it’s only from the Indian team’s point of view.”