Hardik Pandya impressed one and all on his captaincy debut in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year, leading Gujarat Titans (GT) to the title victory. He led the side from the front, scoring 487 runs and claiming 8 wickets in the tournament.
On the back of his IPL 2022 exploits, Hardik also made his comeback to the Indian white-ball team. Notably, he wasn’t getting considered for selection on fitness grounds after the T20 World Cup 2021 in UAE.
And now, Hardik is being seen as a future captain of Team India. He has already led the Men in Blue in T20Is and also serving the national team as vice-captain in the 50-over format.
“I did get a call from the other franchise (Lucknow Super Giants) as well, which was a new franchise in IPL. Someone who I knew (KL Rahul) was leading the team. For me, it was very important, considering the stage at which I was, where I really wanted to play with a person who has known me,” Hardik told Gaurav Kapoor in Gujarat Titans’ podcast.
He then revealed how a call from former India pacer Ashish Nehra, who ended up being the coach of the Ahmedabad-based franchise, changed his mind.
“But then Ashu pa called me. At that time, the team also didn’t have permission to be part of the IPL. It was very haywire; things weren’t even settled. He said, ‘I’m going to be the coach. It isn’t fixed yet, but I will be coach’. I was like, ‘Ashu pa, if you weren’t there, I wouldn’t have even considered this because you’re saying this… I’ve always felt you are one person who has understood what I am’,” Hardik stated.
“I’m simple to work with, the one who knows me, knows what I am. I think he (Nehra) comes in those categories who have found the right side of me. I was completely off the grid because I took a sabbatical, and was away from the sport. I had decided not to be available for anything.
“I told him, ‘Ashu pa, it’s very important for me to know what you’re looking at’. We had a good chat. I was like, ‘okay let me think about it’. Moments after disconnecting the call, he dropped me a message saying ‘if you’re ready, I would like you to take the captaincy’. That was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect that. I’ve never been a person who has ever run behind anything. If someone comes, it comes. When I got to know, I was in a different zone,” he further remarked.
Hardik Pandya is also making a mark as captain of Gujarat Titans in the ongoing IPL 2023 season. So far, he has led GT to three wins from four matches.