Captain Hardik Pandya knew he had to take some bold decisions, like opening the attack with himself, giving Shivam Mavi the second over instead of the more senior Harshal Patel and handing the final over to Axar Patel with Sri Lanka needing 13 runs to win.
With India defending a modest total of 162 against Sri Lanka in the first T20I match at the Wankhede Stadium, the major concerns were about the young bowling unit as it looked a bit thin after Arshdeep Singh was made unavailable as he had not fully recovered from the injury he suffered in the previous match.
Hardik took the responsibility himself to give India a superb start with the new ball and also inspired debutant Shivam Mavi with a promise to back him even if he got hit initially. The skipper's tactics and encouraging words worked like magic as India fought back to beat Sri Lanka by two runs in a last-over thriller to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
With 13 required from the final over the skipper threw the ball to spinner Axar. After the match Hardik defended his decision to give the final over to the left-arm spinner.
"I want to put this team through difficult situations as it will help us in big games. This is how we are going to keep challenging ourselves. We might lose a game here and there but it's alright. It’s a long-term plan. game," said Hardik.
He said he told Shivam Mavi to bowl to his strength and not get bothered if he was hit by the batters. "I have seen him bowling well in the IPL and I just told him to simply bowl. I told him, 'I am backing you. Even if you get hit, it's fine' (don't get bothered)," the skipper said.
Asked about opening the bowling attack, Pandya said he will always turn to himself if the situation demands.
"If the same situation is there, I will take the new ball. I have been bowling in the nets with the new ball since I returned to the IPL. I have learnt how to swing it back," he said.
The 29-year-old all-rounder, who is standing in place of Rohit Sharma in his second full series as captain, had a bit of a bother when he had to go out for treatment after completing the catch off Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Pandya said it was only cramps and that he was unwell the night before.
"It was just cramps, I am alright. It was a rough night, I was unwell and I had my fluids down. If I am smiling, everything is fine," he said, adding he was getting used to being called as India captain.
"I want to put this team through difficult situations as it will help us in big games. This is how we are going to keep challenging ourselves. We might lose a game here and there but it's alright. It’s a long-term plan. game," said Pandya after the match.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)