After Mumbai Indians (MI) beat Punjab Kings (PBKS) by six wickets in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, team's captain Rohit Sharma praised all-rounder Hardik Pandya for his match-winning 40 not out off 30 balls. Hardik and Kieron Pollard partnered for 45 runs as the former hit a six to finish off the match.
Fourty runs were needed from the final when Hardik showed maturity and timed his innings perfectly to to help Mumbai gun down 136 with an over to spare. The 27-year-old, who missed the first couple of matches for Mumbai due to a niggle, hit four sixes and 2 fours to gain some momentum at a time when the defending champions are looking to book a playoff berth and the T20 World Cup 2021 is round the corner. Hardik had failed to perform on India's recent white-ball tour to Sri Lanka and questions over his selection were also being raised.
Further, Rohit Sharma said that dropping out-of-form Ishan Kishan was a tough call. The 34-year-old praised Kishan's Jharkhand teammate Saurabh Tiwary who played a solid 37-ball 45-run knock to put back Mumbai innings on track. Notably MI lost Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav on the third and fourth ball of the fourth over respectively. The team had put only 16 runs on the bard by then.
"As a team we didn't play to our potential, but these things happen when you play in such a format where you're competing really hard. It's important to stay within the group, stick with each other. It's a long tournament. Yes we didn't have the run we would have liked but we have been in this situation many times so we can take confidence from that. The guys we have in the squad are ready to fight. [On Hardik's batting] The way he understood the situation was important from the team perspective and for himself also. It's important he spent some time in the middle. (Dropping Ishan Kishan) was a very tough call but as a team we felt we needed a chance somewhere. But he looks very confident when you talk to him. Saurabh (Tiwary) was batting well, he got a 50 against CSK. We wanted someone who could nudge around. I'm not ruling out anyone, we want him (Ishan) to be back in form and playing for MI," Rohit Sharma said after the match.
Talking about the pitch, the 5-time IPL-winning captain jokingly said it was better than what was on offer in England. Mumbai Indians bounced back to the fifth spot after the win and Rohit believes that his team will have to change its tactics to stay in the hunt of a playoff berth.
"Better than what we played in England! Towards the end of last year, it was pretty similar to what we are getting now. We need to change our tactics. There will be lots of change-ups from the opposition based on our batting line-up. (On Pollard) He's one of our key players. Been a crucial part of MI so many years. Give him the ball, give him the bat, he's ready to do the job. Those two wickets were crucial. He'll be happy getting the Man of the Match for his bowling performance," Rohit said.
MI next face Delhi Capitals (DC) on Saturday.