‘We deserve the playoff spot,’ says Gujarat captain Hardik Pandya

Gujarat Titans (GT) skipper Hardik Pandya heaped praise on his team on Monday following their 34-run victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), saying the defending champions deserved to become the first team to qualify for the playoffs.

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Shubman Gill slammed 101 off just 58 balls — his maiden IPL century — to power GT to 188 for nine despite a late comeback by SRH’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5/30).

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In reply, SRH were restricted to 154 for nine, as GT became the first team to enter the play-offs this season.

“Very proud of the boys, two in two (making it to the play-offs twice in a row). The boys put their hands up and in challenging situations and we rightly deserve the playoff spot,” Hardik said at the post-match presentation.

“There will be expectations and for me it was important to focus within the group. We ticked a lot of good boxes, we made a lot of errors but we were always there in the game and tried to stay consistent,” he added.

After Gill and Sai Sudharsan (47 off 36 balls) laid the foundation for a strong total with their 147-run partnership for the second wicket — which was however wasted by the other batters — the likes of Mohammed Shami (4/21) and Mohit Sharma (4/28) shone with the ball to cut short SRH’s campaign.

Impressed with their effort, Hardik called himself a bowler’s captain.

“Bowlers are very close to my heart. Sometimes batters take a lot of credit, for me I will always be a bowler’s captain and ensure they get due credit that they very much deserve,” Hardik said.

In Photos: GT knock SRH out, become first team to enter playoffs

Recalling his IPL debut against SRH, man-of-the-match Gill said it has come a full circle for him.

“My IPL debut was against SRH, now I’ve my IPL hundred against them. Quite pleased. It’s come a full circle. Hopefully I’ll get more hundreds this season,” Gill said.

“I’m not the kind of person who dwells too much on my last innings. The focus is on what’s needed at the moment. The most satisfying moment was to hit Abhishek (Sharma) for a six because he is my childhood friend.”

Out of reckoning for a place in the play-offs, SRH skipper Aiden Markram said his team will play for pride in its remaining two games.

“A lot of pride for us to play for. We’ll try to give some opportunities if we’re allowed to. It’ll be nice to finish off the tournament in good spirits but unfortunately, we haven’t been good enough in the tournament this year,” Markram said.

“When a team is one down in the backend, it can go either of the two ways. It was important to break the partnership and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar) did that for us. He’s been exceptional for us and Nattu (T Natarajan) as well.”

With inputs from PTI

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