By India Today Sports Desk: Batting great Sunil Gavaskar heaped praise on Hardik Pandya, saying the Gujarat Titans captain has exceeded expectations as the leader of an Indian Premier League side by taking his side to two successive IPL finals. Gujarat will face Chennai Super Kings in the IPL 2023 final in Ahmedabad on Sunday, May 28.
Sunil Gavaskar said he feels that Hardik Pandya has become less excitable after he was tasked with the responsibility of captaincy by Gujarat Titans in IPL 2022 and the final against MS Dhoni will be a great opportunity to prove how quickly he has learned the art of captaincy.
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After defying odds and proving naysayers wrong en route to winning the title in their first year, Hardik Pandya-led Gujarat Titans stormed into the final in 2023. Gujarat topped the table in both seasons but had to take the longer route to the final in 2023.
While they won the Qualifier 1 against the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2022, they lost the Qualifier 1 to Chennai Super Kings last week. However, Gujarat kept their calm and bounced back wonderfully well to beat Mumbai Indians by 61 runs in the Qualifier 2 and reach the final again. GT became the first team in the history of IPL to reach the final in their first two years of existence.
It took a stunning 129 (60 balls) from Shubman Gill and a 5-wicket haul from Mohit Sharma for Gujarat Titans to dismantle Mumbai Indians and make a strong statement before the big final.
It will be master vs apprentice as MS Dhoni faces his good friend Hardik Pandya, who has idolised and admired the Chennai Super Kings captain over the years.
“He (Hardik) has been very open about his admiration and affection for MSD, just like all those who have followed MSD’s career. When they go out to the toss, they will be very friendly and smiling all that. But when it comes to the match, it will be a completely different atmosphere. It’s a very good opportunity from Hardik Pandya to show how quickly he has learned,” Gavaskar told Star Sports on Friday.
“When he was captaining for the first time last year, nobody knew what to expect because he has been one of the most exciting and excitable cricketer as well. But that excitable part, we have seen over the last year. The calmness that he brings into the team is reminiscent of MSD. This is a happy team, which is exactly what we see with CSK as well. Hardik has to take a lot of credit for that,” he added.
ASHISH NEHRA DESERVES CREDIT: GAVASKAR
Hardik has looked calm and composed, not losing his cool when things don’t go Gujarat Titans way. He has been proactive with his moves and the way he fired up the team with an animated pep talk in the huddle ahead of Qualifier 2 vs MI told the story.
Gavaskar also said a lot of credit for GT’s success should go to Ashish Nehra, saying the head coach is crucial to keeping a light atmosphere in the dressing room. The batting great also highlighted the tactical acumen of Nehra.
“I would not want to miss Ashish Nehra. He is one person, when he is in the change room or the comm box, you cannot but be laughing. He makes life look so easy and he has got one of the sharpest cricketing brains,” Gavaskar added.
CSK are in their 10th final and have faced the high-pressure situation quite a few times in the past but Gavaskar believes Gujarat Titans will give MS Dhoni’s men a tough fight on Sunday.
“They have always been a top-class team. Look at the way they have topped the table. They finished with 20 points, 3 more than Chennai Super Kings. It tells you how Gujarat Titans dominated in the league stages. It should not be a surprise that they reached the final. They have played champions cricket.
“And that’s why there are in the final. CSK know that they have a real, real fight in their hands,” he added.