Hardik Pandya is at the pinnacle of his abilities. He’s batting with a level of maturity seldom seen before, bowling vital overs and having an impact, and captaining much better than anyone thought. The outcomes have followed suit. Gujarat Titans finished first in the season and then defeated Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 1 to qualify for the IPL 2022 final. Even off the field, Hardik’s circumstances have improved. When challenged about the criticism of his health and performance, the GT captain responded with a humorous retort.

“People always speak, that’s their job; I can’t help,” Pandya said after guiding the Titans to a seven-wicket victory against RR in a virtual media session. “Hardik Pandya’s name sells more news; I have no issue with that; I simply take it easy and smile.”

Hardik has often found himself in the centre of attention, sometimes for the wrong reasons, but the all-rounder has battled back and found a way to claw his way back. Hardik was released by Mumbai Indians and signed by Gujarat as a draught selection for 15 crore ahead of the IPL season. When he was given skipper of a team making its debut, there were doubts, but Pandya has delivered, whether with the bat, ball, or his ‘Captain Cool’ demeanour, which he shares with his guru MS Dhoni.

“Obviously, Mahi bhai has played a significant part in my life; he is my close brother, friend, and family,” Pandya stated.

“…I’ve learned a lot of good things from him; for me, it was more about being individually strong, which I’m really proud of, as well as how I was able to manage all the parts.” Pandya, who has 453 runs at a 45-plus average and a healthy strike rate of 132.84, is the fifth most prolific batter this season.

Pandya has also been effective with the ball, making vital plays for his side. He’s bowled 26.3 overs and got five wickets with a 7.73 economy rate.

(with inputs from PTI)