For two consecutive seasons now,
has led Gujarat Titans to an IPL final, and the all-rounder’s leadership skills have commanded respect from all quarters, including the legend Sunil Gavaskar, who has likened Hardik’s calmness to that of ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni.
On Sunday, the two will face off in the
IPL 2023 final
, where Gujarat Titans will look to defend the title they won in their debut season last year against four-time champions Chennai Super Kings.
Titans, under the guidance of Pandya, sailed into their second successive IPL final after blowing away five-time champions Mumbai Indians by 62 runs in Qualifier 2 to set up a summit clash with four-time winners Chennai Super Kings.
“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,” Gavaskar told Star Sports. “But when it comes to the match, it will be a completely different atmosphere. It’s a very good opportunity for Hardik Pandya to show how quickly he has learned.”
Handed the captaincy in GT’s inaugural season, Pandya guided the team to a maiden IPL title.
“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,” Gavaskar said.
“The calmness that he brings to 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.”
Gavaskar also attributed the success of GT to coach Ashish Nehra.
“I would not want to miss Ashish Nehra. He is one person, when he is in the change room or the comm (commentary) box, you cannot but be laughing. He makes life look so easy and he has got one of the sharpest cricketing brains,” the 73-year-old.
Gujarat had lost to CSK in Qualifier 1. They will now have another go at Dhoni’s army in the final on Sunday and Gavaskar said it will be a tough battle for the Chennai team.
“They (GT) 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 on their hands.”
(With agency inputs)