Pandya struck an unbeaten 37 off just sixteen deliveries after picking up a wicket with the ball earlier to lead Mumbai to a five-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in Mumbai on Monday. The right-hander struck 22 runs off the penultimate over bowled by Pawan Negi to set up the fifth win of the season for Mumbai.
It was the continuation of what it turning out to be an excellent IPL 2019 campaign with the bat for Pandya and the all-rounder’s importance to the squad was not lost on skipper Rohit.
It had been a difficult past year or so for Pandya at the international level with injuries and controversies seeing him sidelined for a lengthy spell. The all-rounder has now scored 186 runs in the ongoing IPL campaign at an average of nearly 47 along with a strike-rate of over 191.
“Yeah, he (Hardik Pandya) has been at a different level,” an elated Rohit said after Mumbai’s fifth win of the season.
“He wanted to contribute with bat and ball in this particular season. He didn’t have much cricket before IPL so he wanted to prove a point, to himself more than anyone else.
“The way he’s hitting holds us in a better position. It will help us win those crucial games.”
Rohit also hailed the impact of Lasith Malinga who picked up 4-31 with the ball on his return to the Mumbai playing XI. The veteran Sri Lanka pacer had missed the last three clashes but he came back all guns firing with an exceptional display, especially in the death overs to help restrict RCB to just 171-7.
“I’ve been talking about him more often, how he’s been an important member of this squad. His performance matters to us. Now he’s back from Sri Lanka with that sort of performance. It will help us moving forward because his form is very critical,” said Rohit.
“Trust me, bowling at Wankhede in the death overs is not easy. He held his nerve against one of the best in the world,” he added.
Malinga himself was delighted to get back into the thick of things after having to juggle between his Sri Lankan domestic cricket and IPL commitments.
“Last couple of weeks have been a tough time for me, I had to go to Sri Lanka and play the domestic tournament. But I realised that when I get a chance, I have to give 100 per cent,” said Malinga after being awarded with the man-of-the-match award.
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