India in West Indies – Hardik Pandya takes responsibility after India lose to West Indies

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“If you see, we lost that period post ten overs since I came [in to bat],” he said in the post-match presentation. “I think I was not able to capitalise [on] the situation and took my time and was not able to finish. I think the boys really played well. I think, at that period when I went in, I kind of did not play exactly how it was supposed to be.”

India had recovered from the loss of two early wickets at the time their captain arrived at the crease. They were 86 for 3 in the 11th over but were immediately tied down by West Indies. Only 20 runs came off the next 22 deliveries. India finished on 165 for 9 in their 20 overs. West Indies chased it down with eight wickets and two overs to spare.

Of late, Hardik has shown a tendency to bat time. He managed 77 runs at a strike rate of 110 in the T20Is on this tour. He was better in the ODIs, but 70 of the 82 he got from three innings came in one knock. “This has been a concern,” former India batter Wasim Jaffer said on ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time:Out. “He hasn’t been the free-flowing batter that he has been where he comes in and strikes it sweetly – doesn’t mean he’s hitting sixes but striking it nicely, rotating the strike.

“Apart from that fifty he scored in the third ODI, where also he started very slowly but picked it up in the slog overs. But even then, he looked rusty. The partnership between him and Shubman [Gill] in that third ODI, because he started so slowly, Shubman struggled at the other end and he got out. So, for me, the way he has batted in this series, that’s a big concern because not every time he is going to start slowly and finish very strongly. We could see it in the T20s as well. As soon as he comes, the momentum drops down, the strike rate drops down, and it puts pressure on the other guys in the dugout as well. So something for him to take note and improve when the next opportunity comes.”

As captain too, Hardik made some calls that raised debate, such as not bowling Yuzvendra Chahal out in the second T20I, which India lost, even though the legspinner was their best bowler with figures of 3-0-19-2.

Hardik was asked about his thought process while deciding bowling changes in Lauderhill and he said, “It is what I feel at that moment. I don’t plan much about it. If I see the situation and if I believe which is a better option, I generally prefer that. It’s not rocket science, it’s just whatever my gut says at that time.”

Hardik: Youngsters putting their hands up saying ‘I got you’

India came back from 0-2 down in the series to push it to a decider and a lot of their best work was the result of their younger players acquitting well to international cricket. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma and Mukesh Kumar, who made their debuts on this tour, showed that they can play roles as important as the agenda-setter at the top of the innings, the middle-overs muscle and the death-overs specialist. That was a big positive for Hardik.

“It’s very wonderful, they got heart,” he said. “That is something which is very important in international cricket. You mentioned Jaiswal, Tilak and Mukesh but every youngster who is coming up, they are showing character. They have the belief. That is something I’ve seen very often now. Kudos to them, the way they came out and expressed themselves, took the responsibility. I couldn’t be happier as captain that all the youngsters are coming up and putting their hands up and saying, ‘you know what I got you’.”

Senior players, including the regular captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, have been absent from India’s T20I assignments since the end of the 2022 World Cup. They are building a new bench for the next one coming up in ten months’ time in the West Indies and USA. With that in mind, Hardik highlighted the importance of looking at the bigger picture, even if working towards that goal meant taking in a few losses. It’s also why he chose to bat at the toss on Sunday even though India won the last game at the same ground chasing and did it with nine wickets and three overs to spare.

“I believe that as a group we are going to challenge ourselves,” Hardik said. “All these [bilateral] games are the games where we are going to learn. It’s something which we have spoken in the group that anything which is difficult, we are going to try that and make sure that we get better. On hindsight, one series [loss] here and there is fine. It’s a longer process which I don’t think we need to explain much on it. But overall, the boys are committing to the cause which is very exciting.

“We have enough time to figure out what is supposed to be done in T20s. Sometimes losing is good because it teaches you a lot of things. It does not cover up the messes which you do but I think, on the positive side, there is a lot of learning which we as a group have learned and special mention to all the boys. To be very honest, they committed themselves, when we were two-down [on Sunday] they kind of took the challenge on themselves and showed character, throughout the series as well. Yeah, it looked like a very one-sided game today, but at the same time, they kept the smile, they kept coming, they kept trying, winning and losing is a part of the process. We just have to focus on learning as well.”