Hardik's next goal after five IPL titles: 'To win the World Cup for India no matter what'

Titans captain says putting together a strong bowling unit made the difference for them in the tournament

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Five IPL finals, five titles. One, now, as a captain in his first season with a team making its debut and representing his home state of Gujarat. Player-of-the-Match performance in that final, including the wickets of the big three of the opposition. Yet, Hardik Pandya's bigger goal in life is to win a World Cup with India. Moments after he collected the winners' trophy and finished his other obligations, Hardik was asked what his short-term and long-term goals were now that he had completed a successful comeback after injury troubles had taken away his bowling, and consequently his place in the Indian sides.
"Absolutely to win the World Cup for India no matter what happens," Hardik said. "I am going to give it everything I have. Always been that kind of guy, to put the team first. For me the goal will be simple: to make sure my team gets it the most.
"Playing for India has always been kind of dream come true no matter how many games I have played. It has always been a pleasure for me to represent the country. The kind of love and support I have got, it is only from the Indian team point of view. Long term, short term, I want to win the World Cup no matter what happens."
Hardik has come close to winning a world title with India on three occasions, but all three ended in heartbreak. In 2016, his final over against Bangladesh carried India into the semi-final of the T20 World Cup but India lost to West Indies. In the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan next year, he displayed some of his hitting prowess in a scarcely believable innings, but it was too little and too late. In the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup, Hardik and Rishabh Pant carried out a mini rescue after three early wickets, but New Zealand eventually prevailed.
In the IPL, though, Hardik has won every time he has got to the playoffs, four times with Mumbai Indians and now with Gujarat Titans. Asked if this was a little extra special, Hardik said yes, but only just.
"Obviously, this will be a little special because I have won it as a captain," he said. "The four that I have won before this are equally special too. Winning IPL is always special. I consider myself very lucky that I have played five finals and have lifted the trophy five times. Obviously this will leave a legacy because we are a new franchise, playing for the first time, and we are champions in the first season. But the four that I have won before this were equally special."
It will also come as personal vindication for him and coach Ashish Nehra, who invested more energy in putting together a strong bowling unit. They went into every match with six frontline options - if you count Hardik the bowler - and Rahul Tewatia as a seventh back-up bowler. Hardik said this was their philosophy from pretty early on.
"Specifically, we both [Nehra and he] lean towards the bowlers," Hardik said. "People say T20 is a batters' game but I have always maintained that bowlers win you matches. Because if the batters don't get a par score, if you have a gun bowling line-up, the bowlers can pull things back. We have always given ten runs fewer [than par]. Even when others have conceded 190, we have gone for ten fewer. Those ten runs win or lose you matches in the bigger picture.
"For me and Ashu pa [Nehra], when we were starting, we wanted to create a strong and experienced bowling unit. So that even if there are times when batters don't click, you can pull back with the bowling."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo