‘Never convinced Hardik Pandya against his return to Mumbai Indians’

NEW DELHI: Gujarat Titans head coach Ashish Nehra on Saturday conceded that the side will dearly miss former skipper Hardik Pandya but also admitted that he never tried to convince Hardik Pandya against returning to Mumbai Indians — his former franchise ahead of the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.
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The 17th edition of the cricketing extravaganza begins from March 22 and Nehra’s Titans will lock horns with MI in their opener on March 24.
Hardik, who led GT to IPL title in their maiden year before taking them to the final last year, returned to Mumbai in December, replacing Rohit Sharma as their skipper.
“In any sport, you have to move on. You cannot buy experience and to replace someone like Hardik Pandya or (an injured) Mohammed Shami isn’t going to be easy. But that’s a learning curve and that’s how team moves forward,” Nehra told mediapersons here on Saturday.
Pandya-Nehra combination had worked wonders for GT in their first two seasons and the inevitable question arose whether the head coach tried to stop the skipper from joining Mumbai Indians.
“I never tried to convince Pandya to stay back. As you play more, you gain experience. I could have stopped him had he gone to any other franchise. He (Pandya) played here for two years but he has gone to a team (MI), where he has played previously for 5-6 years,” Nehra was frank in his admission.
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The way Pandya’s transfer took place, Nehra feels that day isn’t far away when IPL goes the European club football way.
“The manner in which the sport (cricket) is moving, we will have trades and transfers like we see in international soccer. It’s a new challenge for him and may be he will learn something new and we wish him the best.”
Replacement of injured players
The 2011 World Cup winner is bullish about his team’s possible replacements with Shami ruled out following a surgery on his achillies tendon and Rashid Khan recuperating from a back surgery.
“IPL is now a 12-people game (Impact Player added) and to fill in Hardik and Shami’s shoes, it is not going to be easy but we have enough people. We have Umesh Yadav, who have been playing the IPL for more than 12 years,” Nehra said.
He is also hopeful that Tamil Nadu skipper R Sai Kishore, who got 55 wickets in Ranji Trophy, will deliver the goods.
“Sai Kishore didn’t play (much) last year, but he has been doing so well. So every year you will be seeing new new guys, you have to believe in yourself and prepare for that,” he said.
When asked if Rashid doesn’t get fit in time, Nehra said: “About spinners, its not that we don’t have experienced spinners. We have Jayant Yadav and Sai Kishore. I am a firm believer of playing to your strengths. In Chennai and Lucknow, there will be slow tracks and we need to be prepared.”
The coach also informed that rookie Jharkhand keeper-batter Robin Minz, who recently met with a bike accident in Ranchi, is unlikely to play IPL this year.
“It is unfortunate but we were also excited about a guy like Minz,” the coach concluded.
(With inputs from PTI)

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