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Hardik Pandya steps up

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Hardik_Pandya_India_cricketIndia has been longing for an all-rounder who bowls pace. The last well-recognized all-rounder who could bowl pace was Irfan Pathan, whose career now hangs on a thread. This is where the Indian Premier League has shown us its power. It has been a platform for players to unleash their talents and Hardik Pandya made the stage his.

Hailing from the state of Gujarat, which has produced fine all-rounders of late, Pandya has grown in leaps and bounds. Muscular and a good timer of the ball, Pandya started playing cricket at a very young age. When his family moved to Vadodara, he was admitted to Kiran More's Academy.

 

Pandya spent quite some time with the Mumbai Indians before his name was featured in the Playing XI. He recalls that Ponting used to feel sorry that he missed out, but Pandya knew that his opportunity was just around the corner. Pandya started representing Baroda in 2013 and played a talismanic role as Baroda won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

 

Pandya's elder brother Krunal Pandya has also shown promise, but the younger of the brothers has made his mark in international cricket. Though he might be living his life grandly now, Hardik recalls that a five-rupee packet of Maggi noodles and hot water were what he often had to eat during his training days. He also said that his family was in debt, more often than not, and he would go to nearby villages to play tournaments through which he'd earn 400-500 rupees, which would suffice for a week.

Hardik got his first Indian cap in the T20 series in Australia where India beat Australia 3-0. His debut performance was overshadowed by Bumrah's brilliance in picking up 3 wickets. He was a part of the team which won the Asia Cup and added 7 wickets to his name. He was selected for the T20 World Cup and every Indian fan would remember his performance in the last over against Bangladesh where he helped India cross the line. But his no-ball also cost India the match in the semi-finals against West Indies.

 

He was picked up by Mumbai Indians in the 2015 auctions for the base price of 10 lakhs, money which he said helped stabilize his family. He caught the eyes of the audience through his cameos which included a half-century against Kolkata Knight Riders and an 8-ball 21 against Chennai Super Kings. He was awarded the Man of the Match for the latter.

 

He recalls that Sachin Tendulkar had faith in him and was sure that Pandya would be a part of the Indian side within a year and termed it 'indescribable'. He has also used Sachin's advice effectively. 

"He [Sachin] told me, ‘You can play shots, so you can take time.’ Right now I am doing the same thing. I am not hitting sixes from the first ball. I am taking a good 15 balls before going for the big sixes. He used to tell me during the IPL that I can take time and cover up later. I did not understand what he meant then. Since I was batting at No. 7 the team would need something quick-fire, so I used to hit from the first ball. Now for Baroda, I am batting at No. 3, so I am getting a good amount of balls and time," said Pandya last year.

 

One can clearly see that Pandya incorporated Sachin's advice during his buccaneering century against Sri Lanka, where he smacked 108 runs off just 96 deliveries. The knock featured 8 boundaries and 7 massive sixes, including him smacking 26 runs off an over.

 

It was a testament to his batting prowess and he clearly made a statement to the selectors ahead of the upcoming tours at the end of the year.

The flamboyant all-rounder wants to make an impression as a batting all-rounder. "Batting has always been my priority. Until last year I saw myself as 60% batsman and 40% bowler. But after that, I worked on my bowling and now I focus equally on both," says Pandya. His life has certainly changed from borrowing bats from Irfan Pathan to carrying almost 8 bats in his kit.

One may look at his stats and wonder whether he is the right man for the current Indian setup. The numbers may not be with him, but his experience helped him get there. He impressed on the tour to Australia scoring a great half-century when India A had lost more than half their side before getting 50 runs on the board. He said that legendary Indian batsman and coach, Rahul Dravid instilled the faith in him and asked him to take a more patient approach whilst batting.

Out of the 178 Test runs from 3 innings, 124 have come in boundaries. He has done fairly well with the ball as well. He is now a key member to this Indian lineup and he will be looking forward to maintaining the same form. Only time will tell whether we've found another Kapil Dev.

 

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