Sports

Hardik says Titans batted first to ‘test ourselves in difficult situations’

When Mayank Agarwal lost the toss – the eighth Punjab Kings had lost in 10, making them the second-unluckiest team in the tournament – he must have felt distraught because they are pretty close to getting into must-win territory. However, seconds later, he was handed what he wanted: an opportunity to chase a total.

After a fairly comprehensive defeat, Gujarat Titans’ captain Hardik Pandya confirmed that they didn’t make the decision to bat first based on conditions, but because they wanted to put themselves in difficult situations. On the first occasion they chose to bat first, it was an afternoon game so it was understandable, but when they made the call even in a night game, it was obvious people would wonder why they chose to do so.

“I absolutely back our decision to bat first because we need to put ourselves in difficult situations as well where we come out of our comfort zone,” Hardik told Star Sports. “We have been doing pretty well in chasing, but we have always wanted to make sure we put our batters under the pressure when the right game comes, when the big game comes, if we have to bat first, we should know exactly how we have to go.”

It is a little curious that Titans have got into this experiment so early in the tournament. They are the table leaders, but they have now won eight games out of 10, which doesn’t always guarantee qualification for the playoffs. Eight wins might eventually be enough to take them there but there is a big premium on finishing in the top two in the IPL.

As it turned out, Titans had to bat in difficult conditions, and while the ball moved around initially for them too, once the dew set in, it became significantly easier for Kings to chase down 144.

“It was an exercise that we wanted to try,” he said. “We knew the new ball might do something. But to be honest we kept losing wickets, and if you keep losing wickets, no matter how the conditions are, the batters are always going to be under pressure. We didn’t get the kind of rhythm or the start we wanted but it’s okay, this loss was a learning curve. But as I said, we need to be coming out of our comfort zone and try to bat first and put ourselves under that pressure.”

What will he tell his side in the debriefing?

“Even when we were winning, we were always talking about how to get better,” he said. “We definitely have a chat about where things didn’t go our way and focus on things which we can get better at in the next games. We play another game in a couple of days, we don’t have much time. We should regroup and we don’t need to worry about it. Winning and losing is part of the sport and more often than not we have ended up on the winning side.”

Titans’ senior batter David Miller, though, felt that the main learning from the match was to decide to chase the next time they win the toss.

“Ideally we would have liked to have bowled first,” Miller said in the post-match press conference. “I think [with] the conditions in the evening – there is a lot of dew – [we need to] look to bat second on winning the toss.

“We have been pretty clinical in our last nine games. So just try to keep things pretty simple in all facets of the game. That’s what we have done in the last nine games prior to this where there have been close matches and we have managed to close them out. Due to doing the basics pretty well. Putting on great partnerships, running pretty hard between wickets, the bowlers have been executing plans really well.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo


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