The leading all-rounder, who sat out against Chennai Super Kings with a groin injury, was back with a 49-ball 67 – his third straight fifty – to lead the Gujarat Titans to an eight-round win over Kolkata Knight Riders.
The Titans’ third win cemented their position at the top of the table.
“I don’t think it’s my (India) comeback anyway and secondly I’m not concentrating on my comeback. I’m focused on the game I’m playing,” Pandya said at the post-game media conference.
The 28-year-old made his final appearance for India against Namibia at the T20 World Cup in Dubai in November last year and, following back surgery, has struggled to keep up with his bowling workload only to return to action in the IPL.
In the ongoing IPL, Pandya sits second in the run chart behind leader Jos Buttler with 295 runs from six innings at an average of 73.75.
“Right now I’m playing IPL and I’ll focus on IPL, then I’ll see where the future goes. It’s never in my hands now. I’m focused on the team I’m playing in. We’re fine and I’m fine well very happy,” he added.
WHAT A WIN! 👊@gujarat_titans win by 8 runs and are back on 🔝 of the table 👏#TATAIPL #KKRvGT https://t.co/PylbPa6HD1
— Indian Premier League (@IPL) 1650723037000
Pandya said he is enjoying his captaincy for the debutants Gujarat Titans to the fullest.
“Captainship helps, of course. I’m always a cricketer who loves to take responsibility. I have a bit of an understanding of the game, having batted for so many years,” he said.
“You are successful because you understand the game. Having played so many games allows me to use my experience. So far so good,” he added.
The Titans got off to a spectacular start, going 133/2 in 16 overs, but they lost heaps of wickets in the back end – four in the final over – to settle for 156/9.
“I feel like we were missing 10-15 runs, they kind of ended very strong. But with the kind of bowling attack I saved my chances. The wicket had an up and down bounce. The back of the long ball worked pretty well,” Pandya added.
It was KKR’s fourth straight loss, but head coach Brendon McCullum said they were confident of reaching the semifinals.
“Confidence in the stroke unit should remain relatively high. We still believe that we are good enough to be in the semifinals and be at the big end of the competition,” said McCullum.
KKR chased 157, rode on fire with Russell and required 29 runs from the last two overs. But Alzarri Joseph produced a fine endgame, firing Russell with a 25-ball 48 to derail their chase.
“Our batters have been very good so far. We scored over 210 goals in the last game. We hit over 170 batts first (against Sunrisers Hyderabad), our batters were mostly very good,” he said, assisting their batters.
“Overall I think we hit pretty well. Going 34/4 and being able to rebuild the innings and explode with Russell was pretty good but unfortunately that wasn’t quite enough,” he added.
KKR captain Shreyas Iyer was devastated by his side’s defeat: “How we started on the power play while chasing and even with the ball. We shouldn’t have conceded that much in those conditions.”
“I think 160-165 was a decent result and we did well to keep them below that. In this format, all games that are tight have to be won and only then can we climb the ladder.”
“Three of our last four games have been very close. The energy and spirit is high before the game and it’s disappointing not to be able to convert it,” he added.
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