India's stand-in T20I captain Hardik Pandya stated that he is fully focused on India's T20I series against New Zealand, and added he has left behind the disappointment of semi-final exit in Men's T20 World Cup 2022.
Both India and New Zealand, the losing semi-finalists from the Men's T20 World Cup in Australia, are on the road to rebuild for the T20 World Cup 2024 through the three-match T20I series, which began with an abandonment without a ball being bowled at Sky Stadium, Wellington, on Friday due to persistent rain.
"To be honest, the World Cup is done. I've left it behind now. I had said it earlier as well, the disappointment will be there, it will take some time to get off that. But at the same point of time, it's a new start.
"World Cup is done, we can't go back and change things. We're now looking forward to this series because the journey from here to two years down the line has started. So we are going to focus more on the future as something which has already gone, you can't control," said Hardik in a chat with broadcasters.
With India giving rest to first-choice players like captain Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli, it gives chance to youngsters like Ishan Kishan, Shubman Gill, Sanju Samson, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav and Umran Malik to perform well and be in the T20I scheme of things in future.
"I know the other boys very well. They will follow exactly what the management or captain would say. I am not much worried about that as I have been here for around five-six years. That's more than enough for me to know that if I have to say something to someone, they will definitely listen as they are all professionals and will find way to get it done," added Hardik.
Hardik, the fast-bowling all-rounder noticed that youngsters coming into the Indian team have a fair bit of experience behind them, thanks to playing consistently in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
"Even the youngsters who have come in, they are not young anymore. These guys are young by age, but not by experience. They have been playing IPL for five-six years, which is one of the most competitive leagues in the world."
"Actually, it tests you and barring 1-2 guys who are fairly young, rest of them have played fair amount of international cricket. They were not a part of the team as when the big boys come, they have to adjust to the system. Still, they have a lot of games behind their back."
"Going forward, the kind of youngsters they are, they don't get intimidated by the fact that they have not played too much cricket. They just back themselves and they have the confidence, because of the self-belief they are here and ready to perform."
With India fielding a side packed with youngsters, Hardik thinks that the first priority will be to make the newbies comfortable in the set-up and get clarity on their respective roles. "If the situation demands, we will definitely try (on pushing youngsters for large roles in the series). But it's more (important) that the guys who are here, they get more clarity about what their role will be in going forward."
"When it comes to me and the more experienced players who have already been part of the team, we are quite clear about our role. What we have been doing, is being done for the last few years. If we have to change something, that will happen in the future."
"Right now, we will make sure the guys who are new, they get their ample opportunities and make sure that they are secure, comfortable and able to go out and express themselves."
Hardik signed off by expressing helplessness over rain having the final say in the T20I series opener. "Boys were quite excited to play here. New Zealand is a great country, great place to play. Unfortunate that we can't do anything. A lot of people came quite early as well, we were excited to play. But this is something we as professional cricketers need to accept as we can't do much about it."
The 2nd T20I between India and New Zealand will now take place in Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui on Sunday.