India Can't Take A Chance With Gaikwad's Health, Says Hardik Pandya
India came out to bat to chase 109 in the first T20I of the two-match series against Ireland and won it easily by seven wickets at Malahide.
When India came out on the field to chase 109 in the first T20I against Ireland at Malahide, Ruturaj Gaikwad didn't come out to open the innings. Instead, eyebrows were raised when Deepak Hooda opened alongside Ishan Kishan. In a 12-overs per side affair, Hooda finished off the chase with an unbeaten 47 as India cruised home with 16 balls to spare.
After the match ended, captain Hardik Pandya revealed that Gaikwad didn't open the innings because of a calf niggle.
"Rutu (Gaikwad) had a niggle in his calf. We had the opportunity of taking a risk and sending him in (to open the batting). But I was not okay with it," said Pandya in the post-match press conference.
Pandya explained that India couldn't have taken a chance with Gaikwad's health, especially with the second T20I happening on Tuesday. "A player's health is more important, and we would be able to manage with what happens in the match. It was quite simple after that, there wasn't much of a decision to make; whatever our numbers were (in the batting order), we all went up one spot, and it wasn't a headache. We wanted to make sure we weren't taking any chances with Rutu."
For India, senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal led the way with the ball through superb spells of 1/16 and 1/11 respectively. Despite young Harry Tector smashing a brilliant 33-ball 64, Ireland could only get 108, thanks to the fightback by Bhuvneshwar and Chahal.
"The start that Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) gave, taking the first wicket and a wicket in the second over (Hardik dismissed Paul Stirling), it was a perfect start. If you see, the wicket played really well, it had rained so much but even then, the wicket played really well.
"The way we pulled it back, like how Yuzi (Yuzvendra Chahal) bowled and made sure to not give crucial runs. At one point it looked like they could even get to 120. In between we were a batsman short as well, so it was an important phase where the bowlers pulled it back and restricted Ireland."
While Bhuvneshwar found tailor-made conditions to aid his swing bowling, Chahal was at his economical best, keeping things tight. "With Bhuvi, everyone knows what his calibre is as a bowler. Like, he always comes and does the same thing but sometimes his work goes under the carpet, he's not talked about a lot. But if you look at history, and the way he has performed with consistency, he commands a lot of respect and he deserves to get it too. For me, Bhuvi is top class.
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"Same thing with Yuzi as well, he's a matchwinner. Whenever he gets the ball, I tell him to bowl what he wants to and he'll help you win the match. Very happy for Hooda as well because at the last minute to know you're going to open and then finish off the game, it shows character. Very happy for him," concluded Pandya.