'We had the choice of taking risk. But I wasn't okay with it': Hardik explains why Hooda replaced Gaikwad in 1st T20I

Published on Jun 27, 2022 12:23 PM IST

Fans were slightly surprised to see Deepak Hooda walk out alongside Ishan Kishan to open the batting in the T20I series opener.

Deepak Hooda in the first T20I against Ireland(Getty Images)
Deepak Hooda in the first T20I against Ireland(Getty Images)

Hardik Pandya, having led team India to a victory in his first match as the captain of the national team, revealed the reason why opener Ruturaj Gaikwad wasn’t sent out to bat in India’s chase of 108 from 12 overs against Ireland on Sunday. (Also Read | 'Shoaib Akhtar who?': Speedometer shows Bhuvneshwar bowl a 208 kph delivery against Ireland, Twitter left baffled)

After having been set a target with a required run-rate of 9 at the Malahide Cricket Club ground in Dublin, with strong performances in the bowling department by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal, Indian fans were slightly surprised to see Deepak Hooda walk out alongside Ishan Kishan to open the batting.

While Hooda made good of his opportunity, scoring 47*(29) after a scratchy start, many would have been concerned about why Gaikwad was not seen opening.

Pandya, however, was quick to curb the fears, saying that it was a precautionary measure and nothing more. “Rutu had a niggle in his calf. We had the choice of taking a risk and sending him in [to open], but I was not okay with it,” said Pandya post-match. “A player’s well-being is more important, and we’ll be able to manage what happens in the match.”

Gaikwad hasn’t had the best of starts to his international career, with only one half-century in 8 innings since his debut earlier this year. However, it speaks to his potential and his ability to make runs at the top of the order that the Indian management has persisted with him and kept faith, despite the number of top-quality openers waiting in the wings.

Gaikwad’s one half-century came in the third T20I against South Africa in June, an important contribution as India reversed the momentum of the series, and included an over where he plundered four boundaries off Anrich Nortje.

Pandya continued by saying that they didn’t want to risk aggravating Gaikwad’s injury, and that at the end of the day it was a straightforward decision. “It was quite simple after that, there wasn’t much of a decision to make; whatever our [batting-order] numbers were, we all went up one spot, and it wasn’t a big headache. We wanted to make sure we weren’t taking any chances with Rutu.”

In the end, it was a convincing seven-wicket win for India, with two overs in the bank when Hooda hit the winning boundary. India will hope to complete the whitewash on Tuesday, but it will be interesting to see if Gaikwad’s injury will necessitate a replacement in the second T20I.

India do have Sanju Samson, Venkatesh Iyer, and potential debutant Rahul Tripathi on their touring squad, all of whom would be itching for some game time before flying back to India.

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