Hardik Pandya played a key role in India winning the third and final T20 against England on Sunday but he believed Rohit Sharma’s special innings in the 199-run chase the difference between the two sides. More so, the fact that it came after two ordinary outings only added to the joy of it. Rohit scored an unbeaten 100 as India won by seven wickets and took the three-match series 2-1.
Rohit came into the third T20 on the back of mediocre outings in the first two T20s scoring 32 runs and 5 runs respectively. But he didn’t take long to get back into the groove scoring 100* from 56 balls with 11 boundaries and five sixes to take India past the winning line.
“Rohit played amazingly well. He was outstanding and played a fantastic hand. He won the game single-handedly for us. We expect that from him. I haven’t seen anyone hit the ball as hard as Rohit,” Pandya said in the post-match press conference. “Not having two good games and then coming back to play such an innings, that is special. It shows the confidence players have in this team, in themselves. It all comes down to the support staff. They have been great,” he added.
Pandy was instrumental as well with the ball and bat. He first picked up four wickets at the cost of 38 runs. In the chase, he came ahead of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina to score 33 runs from just 14 balls to provide support to Rohit in the second innings. Things could have been much different and much worse for India going by the first four balls he bowled which went for 22 runs with two sixes and two fours. “To be honest, I see the T20 format as a funny game. You need to back yourself and bowl your best balls. I still remember after getting hit for 22, I was still normal. If you come and bowl the right lengths, and take wickets on this kind of pitch, eventually you will stop runs,” Pandya said.
“My focus was to make sure that I bowled different balls rather than just bowling yorkers because bowling length was the key. With the shortest boundaries on the straight, I kind of mixed things.”
Pandya reckoned it is still a learning phase in his career and every game teaches him a new lesson. “I am learning. I am always learning in the game. I’ve made sure that I keep on learning from my mistakes. With every game, something or the other I am learning, which is helping my game,” he said.
“When I was young, I have batted at number three. So for me any situation I go in, I play according to that. It doesn’t matter if I hit 13-ball 30 or 25-ball 25, depending on the situation I play accordingly.”
Even as Pandya and Rohit garnered most of the praise in the third T20, the all-rounder made sure to count the back room staff in the team’s rise. “We have a fantastic staff and leaders who are giving us immense confidence to go and express ourselves. We are just enjoying our game rather than think about what’s going to happen. We’re just playing our best cricket and eventually when you do that, you end up doing well,” he said.
“The good thing about this generation of players is that we are backed to the hilt. We try and back each other and the support staff also gives us freedom to express ourselves.
“In the end this is a sport, sometimes you will do well and sometimes you won’t. I try to see it like that. There will be both good and bad days but I try to work hard and put in the effort.”
Asked if this was his best performance for India in the shortest formats, Pandya said, “You can say so. We would have loved to restrict them for fewer runs. I gave 38 runs overall but in the first over I would have liked to give fewer runs. Maybe I can call it the best performance.
“It doesn’t matter though. In the end if the team wins, even if I give 50 runs and don’t take wickets, I am more than happy.”