With the backing of cricketing legends Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Pointing, describing the 22-year old as the “one to watch out for”, Hardik Pandya made it to the Indian squad for the 3-match T20 series for Australia. He feels he is the perfect one to fit in at no. 7 position for Team India as he is a fast bowler all-rounder, India was looking for.
Pandya shot to fame with his fantastic performance displays in the cash-rich IPL. His stint with the Mumbai Indians this year was successful as Mumbai clinched the trophy this year. He packed in powerful display of his skills at several occasions for his franchisee and that got noticed by the selectors of the Indian team. Although he doesn’t have any big figure records in domestic cricket, he has been performing consistently towards the winning cause of the team.
“I haven’t done too well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year, but I knew I was on the selectors’ radar. Sandeep Patil [Chairman of national selection committee] sir came to watch a Ranji Trophy game [Baroda vs Railways] of ours in which I was the Man of the Match. They saw that I was batting and bowling well, even though I haven’t had too many high numbers in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. But even though you are anticipating it, when the moment actually comes, the feeling is something else.” he added.
Speaking about his maiden call-up, Pandya said that he was expecting the call-up but even then it came as a surprise. “It felt amazing. It was funny because I was expecting the call-up but still it came as a surprise. When I say I was expecting it, I mean you get the vibe that it is going to happen soon. Selectors come up to you and say you’re doing well, and you know they have their eyes on you,” he told.
Pandya along with veteran Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra came as a surprise package for Indian fans. With the series not very far away from March, the squad has been selected keeping in mind – The World T20.
Pandya is confident that he would make his debut in Australia. He promises to repay the selectors’ trust on him if he gets a chance to wear the blue jersey in Australia. With the primary goal being getting in the Indian squad, Pandya has his sights set on the next goal, i.e, playing for India in the World T20 next year.
“My goal was to make it to the Indian team. Now that I have, I can’t wait to make my international debut. I am confident of playing my first game for India in the Australia series and doing well. If I manage that, I will stand a very good chance of getting selected for the World Twenty20 next year. That is my next goal,” he said.
“The pitches there [in Australia] suit my style of cricket. I would enjoy bowling on the hard, quick pitches and the good length that I bowl will cause problems for batsmen. I will also enjoy batting there because the ball comes on nicely and I am good at facing short balls too,” he added.
Since the departure of Kapil Dev from the national circuit, India has been looking for a genuine all-rounder who regularly bowls fast medium. Their search could end with Pandya looking to fill the void. He states that he focused on becoming an all-rounder instead of a batsman as he could have served the needs of the current Indian team well.
“I am definitely eyeing the allrounder’s position in the team. With my decent pace and batting abilities, I can be the perfect No. 7 that India are looking for. That is the reason why I insisted on becoming an allrounder, rather than a batsman who can bowl a bit,” he told.
Terming IPL 2015 the breakthrough moment in his career, Pandya said the T20 league is an amazing concept for young cricketers to learn.
“Before the IPL, no one knew who Hardik Pandya was. I said after the final that IPL will change my life, and it has. Why I give a lot of credit to IPL is because its concept is simply amazing for young Indian players. It is not every day that you meet Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag.
“If it wasn’t for the IPL, I would never have met Ricky Ponting, let alone have this wonderful relationship with him. It teaches you so much about your game and about yourself. As a person I do not take too much pressure, but still, playing in tight games in the IPL, you watch how some of the established greats handle pressure and react to it, and you learn from that,” he said.
Mentor of Mumbai Indians, Pandya gelled well with Ricky Pointing. He said he is looking forward to meeting former Australia captain on the Australia tour and will seek his help to prepare for the Australian conditions and pitches.
“I am regularly in touch with Ricky and now that I am going to Australia, I will call him up and ask him how I should prepare for those conditions and pitches. A few people are not sure if he will help me out in this regard, but I know he won’t say no to me. I know he will be there to help me in whichever way he can,” he said.