It was a memorable day for star all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who became the 9th Indian men’s player to captain his side in the T20Is and as soon as he took the ball in his hand, he quickly registered his name in the record books. After leading Gujarat Titans (GT) to an IPL trophy in their maiden season, Hardik made his captaincy debut for India.
Hardik Pandya got off to a winning start as India’s captain after his team defeated Ireland by seven wickets in the first Twenty20 of the two-game series on Sunday. Harry Tector’s counter-attacking 64 not out off 33 deliveries took Ireland to 108-4 after the rain reduced the game to 12 overs a side. India, in response, rode Ishan Kishan’s 26 off 11 deliveries and Deepak Hooda’s unbeaten 47. Hardik also chipped in with a 12-ball 24, helping the visiting team cruise to the win in 9.2 overs.
Hardik won the toss and chose to bowl first against Ireland in overcast conditions with rain around. It became a 12-over affair and India was on the money right from the first ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India an excellent start with the wicket of Ireland skipper Andy Balbirnie and Hardik introduced himself from the other end with the new ball.
In a surprising move, Hooda opened with Ishan in place of Ruturaj Gaikwad, who was the team management’s pick in all five Twenty20s against South Africa. Hooda found his rhythm after a lull start and put on a match-winning 64-run partnership with Hardik.
Hardik too was quick to get his name on the scorecard as he accounted for the wicket of the big fish Paul Stirling in the second over of the match. Stirling hit Hardik for a boundary early on, but the 28-year-old had the last laugh as he induced a false shot from the Irish veteran over covers and got him out cheaply.
With that wicket, Hardik created history. Out of 9 players, who have captained the men’s team in T20Is, Hardik became the first one to take a wicket for India. None of Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant have taken a wicket as a captain.
Hardik played a part with the bat too as his quickfire 24 off 12 was crucial in India chasing the target of 109 runs inside 9.2 overs and winning the first T20I quite comfortably. Opener Deepak Hooda remained unbeaten on 47 off 29 while explosive batter Ishan Kishan gave the team a perfect start scoring 26 runs off 11 balls.
Hardik, who enjoyed a stellar IPL season with Gujarat Titans, talked about India’s convincing display in the rain-hit Twenty20 International. “Great to start the series with a win, fortunate we got a game. It is important for our team to start with a win. Umran was kept back after I had a chat with him, he’s more comfortable with the older ball and they batted fantastically,” Hardik said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
“So hopefully he gets an opportunity. Some of the shots Harry played had me in awe. Look forward to him developing and taking Irish cricket again,” Hardik added. Ireland and India are playing two games as preparation for the T20 World Cup in October. The second match will be played on Tuesday, also at Malahide.