Team India, under the new leadership of Hardik Pandya, got off to a perfect start with the comprehensive win against Ireland in the recently-concluded first T20I of the ongoing two-match series in Dublin on Sunday.

Notably, after restricting the Irish side at 108/4 in the contest, which was reduced to 12 overs preside due to rain, the visitors finished the proceedings in 9.2 overs with seven wickets in hand. However, when the ‘Men in Blue’ came in the middle to chase down the target, India had a change in the opening combination as all-rounder Deepak Hooda was sent at the top in place of Ruturaj Gaikwad alongside Ishan Kishan.

Though, the move to send Hooda instead of Gaikwad worked for the touring party as the Rohtak-based cricketer played a match-winning unbeaten knock of 47 runs to help India win the contest by seven wickets.

After the game, captain Pandya revealed the reason as to why Gaikwad didn’t come to open the innings. Pandya said that Gaikwad had a calf niggle and they wanted to give him rest as a player’s health is the top-most priority for India.

“Ruturaj had a calf niggle, and we had a chance to send him out by taking some risk. But I was not okay. For me, a player’s health is more important, the match will take care of itself,” said Pandya during the post-match presentation.

“So we didn’t make much of a change, whatever everyone’s number was, we went one place up. And it was not much of a headache. It was important to make sure Rutu was not put under much risk and take much of a chance with him,” he added.

Pandya also heaped praises on Hooda for taking up the responsibility to open the innings at the last moment and making sure to finish the game.

“And very happy for Hooda as well because at the last minute to know you’re going to open and then finish off the game, it shows character. Very happy for him,” Pandya added further.

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