India and Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya termed the last seven months as the toughest period of his life when he “did not know what to do” in the wake of the controversy surrounding his outrage-evoking comments on women.
Pandya, who helped MI beat Chennai Super Kings in an IPL game on April 3, was initially suspended by the BCCI and sent back to India from the Australia tour following his comments on a chat show earlier this year. Later, the suspension was provisionally lifted pending an inquiry.
The 25-year-old said he has left behind the controversy. “It feels pretty good to help the team to win and contribute. It’s been seven months that I’ve hardly played games. They weren’t easy and I didn’t know what to do. I’ve just batted and batted. I want to improve my game every day. It’s a fantastic feeling batting like that and making your team win,” he said.
Pandya, who smashed an 8-ball 25 not out and then picked up three wickets to power MI to a 37-run win over CSK, dedicated the man of the match award-winning performance to those who stood by him.
“I was out with injury and then some other controversy happened. I want to dedicate this Man of the Match to my family and friends, who stood with me in the toughest times,” Pandya said at the post-match presentation ceremony Wednesday night. “Now my only focus is to play IPL and make sure India wins the World Cup.”
CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni felt many “things went wrong” for his side. “We started well, were right on the mark for the first 10-12 overs. Then, a few catches were dropped, a few misfields, the death over bowling wasn’t great. We don’t have bowlers who hit the deck, it was slightly tough on them,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni said he would prefer a one-on-one meeting with his players rather than a team meeting. “We do have one-on-one plans, we needed to know where we could cut-off the boundaries, which batsmen to target, a boundary less or two could have made a difference to a 10-12 run over or a 7-run over. We needed to build some momentum, but we need to know when to plan for those,” he said.
“It is a tough thing – this so-called momentum, it doesn’t really matter, a good start from the bowlers will make things tight, once you set the tone, the game goes along in that flow.”
On the injury to some of his players, Dhoni said, “We don’t have a few players. Bravo has a hamstring injury, David Willey is not there, he has his own problems. Lungi Ngidi is not with us as well, we will have to look at the pitch and then decide on the right combination.”
Elated MI captain
MI captain Rohit Sharma was delighted with the result. “We don’t want the headache of winning every game at the back-end of the tournament. It becomes very tough. I thought 170 was a fighting total because there was something in the pitch,” he said.
“If we knock a few wickets with the new ball, we’ll be in the game. That’s probably why I can’t find a game-changing moment in this 40 overs.” MI’s West Indian batsman Kieron Pollard called Pandya “phenomenal” and explained his role in the current set-up.
“(Hardik) is phenomenal. For us it is just about encouraging him and giving him that opportunity. He practices like that. The Pandya boys have been batting well, so being the more experienced guy, I have to take the initiative and try to do well whenever I come in.
Asked why he was not bowling, Pollard said, “That’s a question you’ll have to ask the skipper. I think as a team we strive on momentum.