Captains Hardik Pandya of the Gujarat Titans and Sanju Samson of the Rajasthan Royals ahead of the toss for Qualifier 1 of the Indian Premier League 2022, at the Eden Garden, Kolkata, on May 24, 2022. Image Credit: IPL Twitter

Hardik Pandya beat Sanju Samson in the battle of captains. Pandya’s leadership and pivotal knock helped the Gujarat Titans storm into the final of the Indian Premier League 2022. An impressive feat, considering that it’s the franchise’s debut.

Pandya and Samson are hugely influential figures. Captains both, they are capable of game-changing performances. So expectations were high in Qualifier 1. They didn’t disappoint, but Pandya emerged the victor. The Samson show at Eden Garden, Kolkata, wasn’t good enough for the Rajasthan Royals.

When Rajasthan batted on Tuesday, Samson turned up the heat with an array of blazing strokes in the powerplay, allowing a misfiring Jos Buttler to bide his time. But the burden weighed down Samson so much that he opted for the risky route to keep Rajasthan afloat before he perished.

His dismissal slowed down Rajasthan despite Devdutt Padikkal’s valiant efforts. Buttler rediscovered his touch and powered Rajasthan to a competitive score. But the feeling persists that they could have put the match beyond Gujarat’s grasp had Samson batted deep into the innings.

How Pandya turned the tables on Samson

That’s precisely what Pandya did. After a rollicking start, chasing 188 on a good pitch, Gujarat ran into trouble. Pandya and David Miller weathered the storm and steered Gujarat to the target. Of course, batting second, Gujarat could calibrate the chase.

Yet, their approach was remarkable. The two batsmen cut out risks but never allowed the required run rate to soar to unmanageable levels. The perilous route of sixes was avoided in favour of fours and singles, and the run rate remained under control.

Pandya’s 27-ball 40 didn’t have a single six, while Miller’s 38-ball 68 had only one six outside the slog overs. Of course, Miller hammered a hat-trick of sixes in the last over, but the match was in the bag by then.

Here’s where Samson can take a leaf out of Pandya’s playbook. The Rajasthan skipper’s batting is breathtaking, but he has to stay around long enough to make an impact on the game. That didn’t happen in Qualifier 1.

Even on the field, Pandya’s captaincy was far more effective than Samson’s. True, they are polar opposites: one very much an extrovert and the other an introvert. Leading a team involves carrying the teammates and managing their skills and egos so that they give off their best. That’s not a job for the timid.

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Samson’s softly, softly approach doesn’t work when captaining an IPL side. When his side was leaking runs, the Rajasthan skipper cut a forlorn figure, and it was left to Buttler to calm the bowlers. These are crunch situations when a captain has to step up.

There were not many glaring tactical missteps from Samson, yet there weren’t any bold moves or a gamble when Gujarat were coasting to the target. Samson is too conservative to try anything drastic like Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Here’s where Pandya stood out. He marshalled his resources well, and even when Buttler went berserk, Pandya kept his cool and that allowed bowlers to keep the score well below 200. That turned out to be the difference between victory and defeat.